Monday, April 18, 2005

What the *Bleep* Do We Know?

I rented this movie from Netflix and watched it with Savannah this weekend. Big mistake -- because now I'm going to have to invest more time watching it again and again. The movie, in case you don't know, is a little genre-mongrel of a film consisting of documentary, theoretical narrative and drama, all depicting our mixed up, messed up, ambivalent relationship with reality and what it is and isn't.

The filmmakers interviewed (on-camera) fourteen experts -- physicists, psychologist, medical doctors, and spiritual guides -- about what constitutes reality from spiritual, physical and theoretical standpoints. The results were fascinating. One of the first interviews is with Canadian physicist Dr. William Tiller, who rightly points out that, if you take history into account, including everything we used to believe was true that turned out later not to be true, then the odds are good that very little of what we believe now is actually true. He uses our knowledge of the atom, past and present, to illustrate this point later in the film. The atom, it was once believed, was a tiny bit of particulate matter (the nucleus), surrounded by a larger, amorphous swarm of inconstant electrons, disappearing and reappearing seemingly at random (he and other scientists make the point that there probably is a pattern, whether we comprehend it or not). Now, physicists believe that, rather than being solid, the nucleus itself consists of even smaller bits of particulate matter that also disappear and reappear. We know this because we've cracked the damn thing open.

So, since we know now that everything we used to believe about the atom -- the building block of the universe -- was entirely wrong, and what we know now could still be wrong (and probably is), then doesn't it stand to reason that everything we know about the universe could be wrong? Of course it does. What if no particulate matter is actually solid, but merely infintely smaller bits that flash and flicker and are brushed aside and come back together depending on forces that act up on them. And what if the acting forces aren't just actions, but also thoughts? What if the very things we think -- our perceptions and beliefs -- actually sculpt our reality to conform? Confusing? Yes. Fascinating? Undoubtedly. Useful? Hmmm....

If we know (as sure as we can know anything) that anger alters brain chemistry, and that chronic anger alters brain chemistry permanently, and has an impact on the body systemically, then what if we just chose to feel something different? What if we made the conscious effort to feel differently, to send out different vibrations -- of love and forgiveness, pardon and understanding, peace and acceptance -- into our immediate environment, regardless of any perceived wrongs against us? And let's take it a step further... what if those perceived wrongs weren't really wrong? What if they were just unintentional slights that we filtered and promoted as full-blown wrongs?

Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese researcher, set about in the late 90's to research the impact of emotion and thought on water. He began exposing small drops of water under a microscope to different emotions and musical stimuli, flash-freezing it and photographing it. What he discovered was that water crystals seemed to blossom in the presence of positive emotion and musical influence, but to break apart and scatter in the presence of negative emotion. I'm still not so sure of Dr. Emoto's creds, science-wise, but the point that is made in the movie is that, if negative emotion impacts water crystals, and we consist of roughly 70% water, then what kind of impact does negative emotion have on us and those around us?

What if the Buddhists are right, that what you send out into the world, thought-wise, emotion-wise, is what you get back (and then some)? Buddhists are no more or less entitled to be right than we are, so what makes us so sure that what they believe -- about the interconnectedness of all things in the universe, about the power of thought and emotion to alter reality, about the active construction of a new reality when the old one's not working -- is any more wrong or right than the reward-and-punishment system the Judeo-Christian world has developed?

It requires more thought... more study... more research. It's a big responsibility, isn't it? If my road rage is impacting other people negatively, even though I don't scream at them, or flip them off, or do something dangerous behind the wheel, but am just annoyed enough to curse them under my breath, then I have a responsibility to stop that. If my queue-a-phobia (resistance to standing in long lines) is kept entirely to myself, inside my own head, where no one can see it while I'm in line, then it still is having a negative effect on the world, and it's my responsibility to stop that. And if I have any negative body images that haunt me from my youth, based on the misperceptions with which I was raised, then I have a responsibility to stop that, for the sake of myself and those who love me.

I am committed to working this out and putting it into practice, though I'm not sure exactly how. So, what the do you know, anyway?


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