Monday, April 22, 2013

The Tao of Physics - Fritjof Capra

An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism - 35th Anniversary Edition.

Knowing and seeing

It is important to realize the difference between the mathematical
models and their verbal counterparts. The former are
rigorous and consistent as far as their internal structure is
concerned, but their symbols are not directly related to our
experience. The verbal models, on the other hand, use concepts
which can be understood intuitively, but are always
inaccurate and ambiguous. They are in this respect not
different from philosophical models of reality and thus the two
can very well be compared.
If there is an intuitive element in science, there is also a rational
element in Eastern mysticism.
Whenever the Eastern mystics express their knowledge in
words-be it with the help of myths, symbols, poetic images
or paradoxical statements-they are well aware of the limitations
imposed by language and ‘linear’ thinking. Modern
physics has come to take exactly the same attitude with regard
to its verbal models and theories. They, too, are only approximate
and necessarily inaccurate.
Beyond Language

Zen Buddhists have a particular knack for making a virtue
out of the inconsistencies arising from verbal communication,
and with the koan system they have developed a unique way
of transmitting their teachings completely non-verbally. Koans
are carefully devised nonsensical riddles which are meant to
make the student of Zen realize the limitations of logic and
reasoning in the most dramatic way. The irrational wording
and paradoxical content of these riddles makes it impossible
to solve them by thinking. They are designed precisely to stop
the thought process and thus to make the student ready for
the non-verbal experience of reality.

Chinese Thought

Both the Confucian Analects and the Tao Te Ching are written
in the compact suggestive style which is typical of the Chinese
way of thinking. The Chinese mind was not given to abstract
logical thinking and developed a language which is very
different from that which evolved in the West. Many of its
words could be used as nouns, adjectives or verbs, and their
sequence was determined not so much by grammatical rules
as by the emotional content of the sentence. The classical
Chinese word was very different from an abstract sign representing
a clearly delineated concept. It was rather a sound
symbol which had strong suggestive powers, bringing to mind
an indeterminate complex of pictorial images and emotions.
The intention of the speaker was not so much to express an
intellectual idea, but rather to affect and influence the listener.
Correspondingly, the written character was not just an abstract
sign, but an organic pattern-a ‘gestalt’-which preserved the full
complex of images and the suggestive power of the word.


The Chinese, like the Indians, believed that there is an ultimate
reality which underlies and unifies the multiple things and
events we observe:
There are the three terms-‘complete’, ‘all-embracing’,
‘the whole’. These names are different, but the reality
sought in them is the same: referring to the One thing.
They called this reality the Tao, which originally meant ‘the

The Chinese believe that
whenever a situation develops to its extreme, it is bound to
turn around and become its opposite.

 In the Chinese view, it is better to have too little than to have
too much, and better to leave things undone than to overdo
them, because although one may not get very far this way
one is certain to go in the right direction. Just as the man who
wants to go further and further East will end up in the West,...

For the Western mind, this
idea of the implicit unity of all opposites is extremely difficult to
accept. It seems most paradoxical to us that experiences and
values which we had always believed to be contrary should
be, after all, aspects of the same thing. In the East, however,
it has always been considered as essential for attaining enlightenment
to go ‘beyond earthly opposites’ and in China
the polar relationship of all opposites lies at the very basis of
Taoist thought. Thus Chuang Tzu says,
The ‘this’ is also ‘that’. The ‘that’ is also ‘this’ . . . That the
‘that’ and the ‘this’ cease to be opposites is the very
essence of Tao. Only this essence, an axis as it were, is
the centre of the circle responding to the endless changes.

From the notion that the movements of the Tao are a
continuous interplay between opposites, the Taoists deduced
two basic rules for human conduct. Whenever you want to
achieve anything, they said, you should start with its opposite.
Thus Lao Tzu:
In order to contract a thing, one should surely expand it
In order to weaken, one will surely strengthen first.
In order to overthrow, one will surely exalt first.
‘In order to take, one will surely give first.’
This is called subtle wisdom.’
On the other hand, whenever you want to retain anything,
you should admit in it something of its opposite:
Be bent, and you will remain straight.
Be vacant, and you will remain full.
Be worn, and you will remain new.

The Unity of All Things

The crucial feature of atomic physics is that the human
observer is not only necessary to observe the properties of an
object, but is necessary even to define these properties. In
atomic physics, we cannot talk about the properties of an
object as such. They are only meaningful in the context of the
object’s interaction with the observer. In the words of Heisenberg,
‘What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed
to our method of questioning.‘ The observer decides how he
is going to set up the measurement and this arrangement will
determine, to some extent, the properties of the observed
object. If the experimental arrangement is modified, the
properties of the observed object will change in turn.

The idea of ‘participation instead of observation’ has been
formulated in modern physics only recently, but it is an idea
which is well known to any student of mysticism. Mystical
knowledge can never be obtained just by observation, but
only by full participation with one’s whole being. The notion
of the participator is thus crucial to the Eastern world view,
and the Eastern mystics have pushed this notion to the extreme,
to a point where observer and observed, subject and object,
are not only inseparable but also become indistinguishable.

The mystics are not satisfied with a situation analogous to
atomic physics, where the observer and the observed cannot
be separated, but can still be distinguished. They go much
further, and in deep meditation they arrive at a point where
the distinction between observer and observed breaks down
completely, where subject and object fuse into a unified
undifferentiated whole. Thus the Upanishads say,
Where there is a duality, as it were, there one sees
another; there one smells another; there one tastes
another . . . But where everything has become just one’s
own self, then whereby and whom would one see? then
whereby and whom would one smell? then whereby and
whom would one taste?

Beyond the World of Opposites

One of the principal polarities in life is the one between the
male and female sides of human nature. As with the polarity
of good and bad, or of life and death, we tend to feel uncomfortable
with the male/female polarity in ourselves, and
therefore we bring one or the other side into prominence.
Western society has traditionally favoured the male side rather
than the female. Instead of recognizing that the personality
of each man and of each woman is the result of an interplay
between female and male elements, it has established a static
order where all men are supposed to be masculine and all
women feminine, and it has given men the leading roles and
most of society’s privileges. This attitude has resulted in an
over-emphasis of all the yang-or male-aspects of human
nature: activity, rational thinking, competition, aggressiveness,
and so on. The yin-or female-modes of consciousness,
which can be described by words like intuitive, religious,
mystical, occult or psychic, have constantly been suppressed
in our male-oriented society.
In Eastern mysticism, these female modes are developed and
a unity between the two aspects of human nature is sought.
A fully realized human being is one who, in the words of Lao
Tzu, ‘knows the masculine and yet keeps to the feminine’.
In many Eastern traditions the dynamic balance between the
male and female modes of consciousness is the principal aim
of meditation, and is often illustrated in works of art.

Examples of the unification of opposite concepts in modern
physics can be found at the subatomic level, where particles
are both destructible and indestructible; where matter is
both continuous and discontinuous, and force and matter are
but different aspects of the same phenomenon.

The Dynamic Universe

Vedic concept of Rita anticipates the idea of karma
which was developed later to express the dynamic interplay
of all things and events. The word karma means ‘action’ and
denotes the ‘active’, or dynamic, interrelation of all phenomena.
In the words of the Bhagavad Cita, ‘All actions take place in
time by the interweaving of the forces of nature.‘5 The Buddha
took up the traditional concept of karma and gave it a new
meaning by extending the idea of dynamic interconnections
to the sphere of human situations. Karma thus came to signify
the never-ending chain of cause and effect in human life which
the Buddha had broken in attaining the state of enlightenment.

Buddhists call this world of ceaseless change samsara,
which means, literally, ‘incessantly in motion’; and they affirm
that there is nothing in it which is worth clinging to. So for the
Buddhists, an enlightened being is one who does not resist
the flow of life, but keeps moving with it. When the Ch’an
monk’ Yin-men was asked, What is the Tao?’ he answered
simply, Walk on!’ Accordingly, Buddhists also call the Buddha
the Tathagata, or ‘the one who comes and goes thus’. In
Chinese philosophy, the flowing and ever-changing reality is
called the Tao and is seen as a cosmic process in which all
things are involved. Like the Buddhists, the Taoists say that one
should not resist the flow, but should adapt one’s actions to it.
This, again, is characteristic of the sage-the enlightened

 The discovery that mass is nothing but a form of energy has
forced us to modify our concept of a particle in an essential
way. In modern physics, mass is no longer associated with a
material substance, and hence particles are not seen as consisting
of any basic ‘stuff’, but as bundles of energy. Since
energy, however, is associated with activity, with processes,
the implication is that the nature of subatomic particles is
intrinsically dynamic. To understand this better, we must
remember that these particles can only be conceived in relativistic
terms, that is, in terms of a framework where space and
time are fused into a four-dimensional continuum. The particles
must not be pictured as static three-dimensional objects, like
billiard balls or grains of sand, but rather as four-dimensional
entities in space-time. Their forms have to be understood
dynamically, as forms in space and time. Subatomic particles
are dynamic patterns which have a space aspect and a time
aspect. Their space aspect makes them appear as objects
with a certain mass, their time aspect as processes involving
the equivalent energy.
These dynamic patterns, or ‘energy bundles’, form the stable
nuclear, atomic and molecular structures which build up
matter and give it its macroscopic solid aspect, thus making us
believe that it is made of some material substance. At the
macroscopic level, this notion of substance is a useful approximation,
but at the atomic level it no longer makes sense. Atoms
consist of particles and these particles are not made of any
material stuff. When we observe them, we never see any
substance; what we observe are dynamic patterns continually
changing into one another-a continuous dance of energy.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

The blooming tea

Like the flowering tea
that blooms
when steeping in the pot
like the sips of the tea
that slowly pervade
my inside-body

your words
grow in my mind

your soul permeates mine

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Friday, December 18, 2009

David Lynch's Catching the big fish

The art life
"Bushnell Keeler, the father of my friend Toby, always had this expression: 'If you want to get one hour of good painting in, you have to have four hours of uninterrupted time."

"Cinema is a lot like music. It can be very abstract, but people have a yearning to make intellectual sense of it, to put it right into words. And when they can't do that, it feels frustrating. But they can come up with an explanation from within, if they just allow it. If they started talking to their friends, soon they would see things -- what something is and what something isn't. And they might agree with their friends or argue with their friends -- but how could they agree or argue if they don't already know? The interesting thing is, they really do know more than they think. And by voicing what they know, it becomes clearer. And when they see something, they could try to clarify that a little more and, again, go back and forth with a friend. And they would come to some conclusion. And that would be valid."

The Pace of Life
"Fifty years ago, people were saying, "Everything's speeding up." Twenty years ago, they were still saying, "Everything's speeding up." It always seems that way. And it seems even more so now. It's crazy. When you watch a lot of TV and read a lot of magazines, it can seem like the whole world is passing you by.

"When I was making Eraserhead, which took five years to complete, I thought I was dead. I thought the world would be so different before it was over. I told myself, Here I am, locked in this thing. I can't finish it. The world is leaving me behind. I had stopped listening to music, and I never watched TV anyway. I didn't want to hear stories about what was going on, because hearing these things felt like dying.

"At one time, I actually thought of building a small figure of the character Henry, maybe eight inches tall, and constructing a small set out of cardboard, and just stop-motioning him through and finishing it. That was the only way I could figure doing it, because I didn't have any money.

"Then, one night, my younger brother and my father sat me down in a kind of dark living room. My brother is very responsible, as is my father. They had a little chat with me. It almost broke my heart, because they said I should get a job and forget Eraserhead. I had a little girl, and I should be responsible and get a job.

"Well, I did get a job: I delivered the Wall Street Journal, and I made fifty dollars a week. I would save up enough to shoot a scene and I eventually finished the whole thing. And I started meditating. Jack Nance, the actor who played Henry, waited three years for me, holding this thought of Henry, keeping it alive. There's a scene in which Jack's character is on one side of a door, and it wasn't until a year and a half later that we filmed him coming through the other side of the door. I wondered, how could this happen? How could it hang together for so long? But Jack waited and held the character.

"There's an expression: "Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole." If you keep your eye on the doughnut and do your work, that's all you can control. You can't control any of what's out there, outside yourself. But you can get inside and do the best you can do.

"The world isn't going to pass you by. There's no guarantee that meditation or delivering the Wall Street Journal is going to make you a success. But with focus and with meditation—although the events of your outer life may stay the same—the way you go through those events changes and gets so much better."

Ask the Idea
'The Idea is the whole thing. If you stay true to the idea, it tells you everything you need to know, really. You just keep working to make it look like that idea looked, feel like it felt, sound like it sounded, and be the way it was. And it's weird, because when you veer off, you sort of know it. You know when you're doing something that is not correct because it feels incorrect. It says, "no, no; this isn't like the idea said it was". And when you're getting into it the correct way, it feels correct. It's an intuition: You feel-think your way through. You start one place, and as you go, it gets more and more finelly tuned. But all along it's the idea talking. At some point, it feels correct to you. And you hope that it feels somewhat correct to others.
'New ideas can come along during the process, too. And a film isn't finished until it's finished, so you're always on guard. Sometimes those happy accidents occur. They may even be the last pieces of the puzzle that allow it all to come together. And you feel so thankful: How in the world did this happen?'

Lost Highway
"At the time that Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for Lost Highway, I was sort of obsessed with the O. J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.

"What struck me about O. J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing later with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term—"psychogenic fugue"—describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, Lost Highway is about that. And also the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever."

Having a Setup
"Some mornings, in a perfect world, you might wake up, have a coffee, finish meditation, and say ‘Okay, today I’m going into the shop to work on a lamp.’ This idea comes to you, you can see it, but to accomplish it you need what I call a ’setup.’ For example, you may need a working shop or a working painting studio. You may need a working music studio. Or a computer room where you can write something. It’s crucial to have a setup, so that, at any given moment, when you get an idea, you have the place and the tools to make it happen.

"If you don’t have a setup, there are many times when you get the inspiration, the idea, but you have no tools, no place to put it together. And the idea just sits there and festers. Over time it will go away. You didn’t fulfill it – and that’s just a heartache."

Keep at it
"It’s such a tricky business. You want to do your art, but you’ve got to live. So you’ve got to have a job, and then sometimes you’re too tired to do your art.

"But if you love what you’re doing, you’re going to keep on doing it anyway… So much of what happened to me is good fortune. But I would say: Try to get a job that gives you some time; get your sleep and a little bit of food; and work as much as you can. There’s so much enjoyment in doing what you love. Maybe this will open doors, and you’ll find a way to do what you love. I hope you do."

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Me Imperturbe, by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Me imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature,
Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of irrational things,
Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they,
Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less
important than I thought,
Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or the Tennessee,
or far north or inland,
A river man, or a man of the woods or of any farm-life of these
States or of the coast, or the lakes or Kanada,
Me wherever my life is lived, O to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as
the trees and animals do.

Me Imperturbe
by: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Notes from The complete Writings of Walt Whitman,

1860: Chants Democratic, No. 18, page 91 ; 1867 Me Imper-

turbe, page 318; transferred to Inscriptions in 1881.

Line 1, 1860: " Me imperturbe,
Me standing at ease in Nature." Present reading in 1867.

After line 4, 1860, read: "Me private, or public, or menial,
or solitary all these subordinate, (I am eternally equal with the
best I am not subordinate.") This sentence dropped in 1881.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In memoriam, Mario Benedetti

Monday, December 15, 2008

We didn't know

The world is full of ideas
If only the idea of you could be mine...

It was the year when the world learned
that the greed of the businessmen
and the constancy of a black man
can sometimes come together,
like heaven and earth sometimes come together.

You were standing and I was passing by,
I was thinking of you
and you were thinking of me
but we didn't know each other.

An attentive observer would have thought the opposite.
Seeing us always at the same places,
buying the same goods, being attracted by the same books,
wandering around the shops as two friends that came together,
split their ways and reunite again at the exit,
commenting their findings, their shopping.

I was dreaming of meeting you
and you were seeing me in your dreams,
without knowing my face.
Everyday we crossed our ways,
but you didn't know me,
I didn't know you.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"An incomplete education"

"In 1931, the Czech-born mathematician Kurt Gödel demonstrated that within any given branch of mathematics, there would always be some propositions that couldn't be proven either true or false using the rules and axioms ... of that mathematical branch itself. You might be able to prove every conceivable statement about numbers within a system by going outside the system in order to come up with new rules an axioms, but by doing so you'll only create a larger system with its own unprovable statements. The implication is that all logical system of any complexity are, by definition, incomplete; each of them contains, at any given time, more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules.

"Gödel's Theorem has been used to argue that a computer can never be as smart as a human being because the extent of its knowledge is limited by a fixed set of axioms, whereas people can discover unexpected truths ... It plays a part in modern linguistic theories, which emphasize the power of language to come up with new ways to express ideas. And it has been taken to imply that you'll never entirely understand yourself, since your mind, like any other closed system, can only be sure of what it knows about itself by relying on what it knows about itself."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

La 69.G: "We are living in a realm of desire"

Saturday, June 03, 2006



The way I fall in love

I listen to your opinions

I listen to the answers that you give to my comments

I see how you behave in situations

I see how you treat me and treat others

I talk with you and see your reactions

I talk with others what we enjoyed talking together first

I look at your eyes, the way you move.

I look at how you look at me


Why I didn't want you as a housemate.

The first day that you visited the house you seated in the table of the kitchen.

I was preparing my food and I approached you to show you the labels of the Zywiec beer.

I looked at your eyes, you looked at my eyes.

I saw a green sea inside you.

A deep ocean of moving waters.

The extension of the sea and the sky.

The power of nature.

All in one second. And then I feared.

For I know that oceans can bring storms.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

La 69.G: Window

La 69.G: Window

I know what you are looking for

it's the same story I am looking for

for everybody wants a story

Perhaps we don't see

through the same window...

Do you see sunshine or heavy clouds?

Maybe we are not looking...

at the same time

in the same way and place.

But we know what we want to see

maybe it's not what everybody

says it should be,

but it's our real story

and now it seems to be there


(I look through the window

and know that my story is there,

...maybe with you...


are you there?)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Undulating sea

I looked through your ear and saw an undulating sea inside.

What forces, what winds move those waves?

What sun warms those waters?

Behind her eyes

I am contemplating Nicole,
she is having a break,
a cup of tea on her hands.

She is looking at an undetermined point in front of her.
The head bows while worlds seem to be created,
in her thoughts.

Wisdom is growing inside her.
Behind those eyes, in that silence,
there is a life, older than her.

She is the woman that has no smile
or the most beautiful smile.

She finishes her break.
Stands up and gives a cold-looking to the world.
The same world she is kissing inside her heart.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

La 69.G: Niqitoa ni Nezahualcoyotl

La 69.G: Niqitoa ni Nezahualcoyotl: "Niqitoa ni Nezahualcoyotl: ¿Cuix oc nelli nemohua in tlalticpac?..."

La 69.G: 5/05/05

La 69.G: 5/05/05: "'The major problem - one of the major problems, for there are several - one of the many major problems with governing people is... "

Monday, January 02, 2006

El Zahir

Mostly Harmless

   'I know that astrology isn't a science,' said Gail. 'Of course
it isn't. It's just an arbitrary set of rules like chess or tennis or,
what's that strange thing you British play?'
   'Er, cricket? Self-loathing?'
   'Parliamentary democracy. The rules just kind of got there.
They don't make any kind of sense except in terms of them-
selves. But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of
processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of
stuff about people. In astrology the rules happen to be about
stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for
all the difference it would make. It's just a way of thinking about
a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge.
The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary they are,
the better. It's like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a
piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are. It lets
you see the words that were written on the piece of paper above
it that's now been taken away and hidden. The graphite's not
important. It's just the means of revealing their indentations. So
you see, astrology's nothing to do with astronomy. It's just to do
with people thinking about people.
So everything was going well was it? Everything was working
out as if the most extraordinary luck was on his side? Well, he'd
see about that.
   In a spirit of scientific enquiry he hurled himself out of
the window again.
The frightening thing about the Vogons was their absolute mindless
determination to do whatever mindless thing it was they were
determined to do. There was never any point in trying to appeal
to their reason because they didn't have any.

Quotes from Douglas Adams’ Mostly Harmless, the fifth part of the trilogy of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Books and writers to read

Marcel Proust

Slavoj Žižek

Kurt Vonnegut - A man without a country

Suzanne Brøgger

Claire Bertschinger - Moving mountains

J. J. Rousseau - Emile

David Lynch - Catching the big fish.

Se non che la mia mente fu percossa

Canto XXXIII de "la Divina Comedia" de Dante Alighieri

Se non che la mia mente fu percossa
Da un folgore, in che sua voglia tenue.
All' alta fantasía qui manco possa:
Ma gia volgeva il mío disiro e'l velle,
Si come ruota, che igualmente é mossa,
L'amor, che muove'l sole e I'altre stelle.

"Had it not been that then my mind was struck by

a flash of lightning, wherein its wish came.

Here the elevated fantasy lacked vigour:

But now my desire and will were already turning,

as a wheel that equally is moved,

love, which moves the sun and the other stars.

"Among the three Cantiche, 'Paradise' is the most difficult to understand because it's the most philosophical."

(Thank you Martina!!)

(You did such a nice job! Just look...)

Had it not been that then my mind there smote
A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
But now was turning my desire and will,
Even as a wheel that equally is moved,

The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.

Instructions for life


  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three Rs:
    Respect for self
    Respect for others and
    Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
  13. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
  14. Be gentle with the earth.
  15. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.
  16. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  17. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  18. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.