Saturday, February 14, 2009

For the Love of Physics - Happy Valentines Day

Most of my friends know that I love Physics, so much so that I ended up with a degree in it. But I'm sure you're wondering why I'd blog on something like my love of Physics on Valentines Day. What could Physics have to do with love. Admittedly, I'm single and home alone, so this may be the result of boredom but bear with me.

Newtonian Physics were straightforward and easy to visualize in my mind. Place some weights and forces on some slides and pulleys, examine the triangles and friction, shake it up with trigonometry and algebra, and suddenly the Whole Universe split open into easy to understand concepts. Every second year Physics student might think, "gee, this stuff is easy". But then we leave the sane macro world easily examined by the five senses and enter a world that can only be intuited through complex and advanced mathematical gymnastics. The human brain becomes the contortionist, bending itself around multiple dimensions of space, where electrons vanish and then reappear without giving away their travel plans. Then enters Heisenberg and his disturbing uncertainty principle. People of science are not comfortable with "uncertainty". He tells us that it is not possible to know both the location and the speed of an object under study because a soon as we attempt to measure one value, the other will become even more uncertain, the certainty with which we can know these values are inversely proportional so if certainty of position is increased then the momentum or speed certainty is decreased. What this suggests, which has become known by the name "observer effect", is that the mere act of observation changes the object being observed. This seems to rise above the physical world and into a world of magic and mist. It's a world that says if I look at you I change you.
Stepping cautiously from the realm of Physics to that of Metaphysics we see a similar concept emerge. Have you ever been sitting in a room of strangers, or on a bus, and felt eyes burrowing into the back of you skull turn to look and find indeed someone looking directly at you? I think most people have experienced this. Even our animal friends seem to be attuned to this phenomena. My cat may be sound asleep next to me, but if I look at her for very long her eyes open and she returns the stare. Remember that moment when you first made eye contact with your love and felt an explosion of butterflies set free from the daisy fields of your root chakra. Buddha instructs us to be our own observer. Do we change under our own gaze? I believe we do. We are much more powerful beings than we give ourselves credit for. Our eyes are more than just windows to the soul, they are doors that we chose to open or close to others. Why is it that when we're wounded and hurting we avert our eyes from others? We know that our eyes will give away our emotions, whether tears are present or not. When I want to make a complicated argument I look away from the eyes of the person I'm talking with so as to not get lost in their reaction to what I'm saying until I've completed the thought, then I immediately seek out their eyes to see if my words have resonated or been lost in translation. When I'm happy and secure I make eye contact with everyone that passes by me but on days when I'm down or distracted by the business of my life, I rarely engage, robbing both myself and others of this gift we all have to share.

As a child and as a mother I know both that look I got when I was trespassing on dangerous grounds and the look I give my own daughter when she does something I don't approve of. I also know the look she gives me when we're connecting and communicating, or the amazing smile she gifts me with when I've acknowledged her great creativity and individualism. By observing one another we change each other. The change may be subtle. Your eyes tell me if you like my look, my new haircut, my clothes, or even my gender and how I present myself. Your mouth may say one thing, but your eyes rarely lie. Each of us, from our earliest moments of life, have accepted these unsaid criticisms from others. We have an image of ourselves as we want to be and search the eyes of others seeking a reflection of that image and when it's not there we alter path, or become depressed.

It is here where science meets religion. Science can't explain why our observation changes the behavior of the observed. Science admits it doesn't know everything there is to know because if it did all scientists would be out of jobs. True religion, likewise, is experiential, a daily deepening into the unknown through prayer and meditation, reflection and contemplation. Extremists claim to know all there is and maybe that's why they're bored and driving the rest of us crazy with their Intelligent Designer, Creation Museum and the promotion of racist wars to hurry God along to Armageddon. But the religious contemplative accepts uncertainty, sits with it, and then smiles at the next person passing by. There is no greater religion or science than that of love. It is my belief that we are one, each of us like a ray from the same shining star, and when we look at each other in love we feel ourselves closer to that whole. We must look for that light in each others eyes. We must also recognize how deeply buried it can become under years of filters like unyielding dogma, abuse, neglect, anger, mistrust and endless other scars and scratches becoming cloudy cataracts over our beautiful lenses. When we see those scars in others, we cannot continue to avert our own light giving gaze, but rather burn through that haze to reflect to them that they truly are a beautiful human being.

So the next time that you pass by me please smile and look me in the eye, even for a brief moment, so that we might reflect to each other the Infinite light of love. And if your bored maybe we can go out for a coffee and talk Physics for awhile.

On that I invite you to enjoy the following Peter Gabriel video, a long time favorite song of mine, In Your Eyes.

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