Sunday, March 4, 2007

Eclipsing Belief: Life as Science

If there's a worse place to see a lunar eclipse than here in New York City, then I'd like to hear about it. This picture couldn't even be salvaged by Photoshop; it's from after the eclipse had passed totality. Perhaps the most remarkable picture was the one I didn't take: of the sky with no moon in it, just as darkness was falling here and I would have expected to see her in her familiar place, hovering over Ocean Parkway at the south end of Prospect Park.

The astronomers have smilingly encouraged us to enjoy the lunar eclipses this year (there's another one in August), though they add that there is no scientific value in viewing them.

I would beg to suggest to these folks that they may be betraying a rather narrow view of what science is. Perhaps there is no astronomical value in viewing the eclipse, but astronomy is not the end of science.

One of the reasons why we Americans are so estranged in our experience and awareness of such things as math and science is that specialists like those astronomers make them such distant and parochial affairs, only accessible by the elite who have degrees and posts at prestigious observatories or universities. This attitude is, of course, a refutation of what science is all about, of everything that made the work of everyone from Pythagoras to Brian Greene possible.

Science, properly appreciated (and, I think, understood), is about lived experience—the ongoing encounter with life and the testing of knowledge in the crucible of wonder. A scientific approach to life proceeds from the suspension of belief (and its opposite), so as to allow experience to become the teacher. If Einstein had worked from the firm ground of a belief system—be it Newtonian mechanics or intelligent design—then he would not have had the inner freedom to start the revolution in perception and understanding that he in fact began. Any scientist with a mind closed to possibility and a heart drained of feeling is no longer a scientist, but rather something on the level of a corporate clerk or a government spokesman. Click the graphic at right and watch the story of Wally Wallington, who didn't seem to understand that he's not supposed to be a scientist.

Therefore, I would encourage you not to let anyone tell you that there is no scientific value in watching a lunar eclipse, or anything else, for that matter. If you are testing your own encounter with it, then every experience has scientific value. Predict how you will respond, how you will feel; test your objective knowledge of the facts and their meaning. It wouldn't hurt to apply a similar approach to your work, your relationships, your politics—even your spiritual practice.

When we do, we tend to discover that the poet's perception of Nature is just as valid as the scientist's: they are different lyrics to the same song. As we mentioned on Friday, there is really no need to worry about who will be the ruler or leader—the brain or the heart; intuition or reason. When you are in accord with yourself, without the muddy screen of belief between you and your lived experience, then the correct leader will step forward from within to meet each encounter. The light always finds its way through, even amid a seeming and temporary darkness.

Site Notes: February was another record-breaking month for DR for visitor traffic. Thanks as always to you all for showing an interest in us. This week, we'll begin with the return of Terry McKenna for some unusual reflections on the season of Lent (!); then we'll be attempting to find some clarity on what's really going on in Iraq and the Mideast. And for Geek Wednesday, we'll be offering some help for writers and other artists. So spend some time with us if you can, and always remember—have fun at work; make everyone wonder what you're up to.

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