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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Science…

What is it? What isn't it? Why do humans have such trouble doing it?

First lets set the human stage. On the one side, the whole of the cosmos and everything that will, over the impossible dimensions of its future, evolve from it. On the other side, angst. Given this choice, and by living in and being of the cosmos, we are each of us, in every moment, granted this choice – we humans almost always nail our allegiance to angst. Then, to assuage the inevitable guilt and shame that goes with so selfish and inward and lowly a choice, we waste our lives making of our angst an art.

We "study" our angst. We acquire advanced language and skills in the numerous areas and fields of angst appeasement. We strive for perfection in inner personal psychology, in bikram yoga, in breathing, in transcendental meditation, in the spiritual arts, in oneness, in brain wave monitored relaxation, in feeling good about our selves, in collective consciousness, in energy awareness, in biographies of our multiple lives, in positive thinking, in the reaching towards a constant ecstatic state, in tantric sex, in drum circles, in mantra driven calmness, in church liturgy, in ancient wisdom, in after-life paradise, in muscle memory, in the feeling arts, in whole foods worship, in feeling from the heart, in the shame of thinking, in altered states, in our unquestionable love for god, etc., etc., etc. More than a third of the shelf space at any bookstore is dedicated to self-help and novels that explore inner healing or some pathway to joy or away from angst.

And then there is science. Hidden away in some dark fold of the human tapestry, if you really spend the time to look, there is this other thing, this anti-angst, there is this outward in stead of inward search, there is this willful act to turn ninety degrees away from the trap and threat of angst – there is science.

What science most decidedly isn't: test tubes and isolation tables and Xray emitters and lasers and atomic force microscopes and infrared telescopes, etc. It isn't these things and it isn't often the people who use them. I have met too many people with too much experience and expertise on such instruments who couldn't define science to save their souls – who couldn't care less.

Science, it seems to me, has nothing to do with the trappings and props with which it is usually associated. No, science is choice. Science is a radical and conscious and constant commitment to ignore the needs and fears and wants that come from within, to ignore our inner experience long enough to see what actually IS – to see the universe outside of our endlessly self-satisfying existential hide-y-hole – a commitment to spend enough time wandering dangerously far away from the warmth of the emotional hearth, long enough to diligently and honestly and selflessly pick away at the actual causal strata from which everything is built, and yes, of which even we were cast.

Science is a constant and diligent, moment by moment, reaffirmation of the notion that we are of the universe – and that the Universe is not of us. Science is a striving to remove ourselves from the center so that we might actually be able to form a more clear understanding of how everything that IS came to be.

Because science demands a form of selflessness so unnatural to humans, it is arguably the most expensive and rarified of all human endeavors. Those test tubes and electron microscopes and computers and gravity meters are the result of the few people who could think beyond the funhouse mirrors of their inner existential vortex long enough to get a peek under the cosmic hood. After that, after the insights from from which the tools are built have happened, well everyone has access and can use them, and it doesn't much matter what they think of, or understand of, science.

It strikes me as important, now and again, to bring science front and center, to hold it in our hands, hot-potato moon-rock precious and rare, to sense the pulse of its danger, if only just long enough to honor those with the emotional tenacity it takes to ignore emotionality long enough to see things for what they actually are.

Randall Lee Reetz

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