Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pet Store Zen, Dancing Girl Chess Pieces, and Understanding Life from a Sub-Atomic Perspective

August 9th 2009

Today I worked at the store. The pace was steady. I stocked the rolling cart full of toys, which feels oddly fulfilling. You start off with crates that are full of what was last weeks overstocked product, and when you’re done, the crates are nearly all empty. In the crates is a hodge-podge of items that is completely random and unpredictable. It is a challenge to try to quickly find the right place to put whatever presents itself next. It is also rewarding to figure out what to do with the things that don’t yet have a home on the shelf, in a way that fits well into the overall presentation. Pretty simple.

You might be saying to yourself… “Mike... you work at a pet store.” I’m thinking the same thing. In fact, I’m wondering if it’s a good idea at all for me to share with you the fact that working on getting shelves stocked can be a kind of meditation in its own strange way. If I can keep my mind completely focused on the simple task at hand, without getting side-tracked by whatever is or isn’t happening in my life outside of the moment, I can walk away from a day at work feeling mentally rested, and intellectually ready to learn new things and move forward.

I read a great article today in the most recent issue of Aramco World, on the history of Chess. It included some interesting anecdotes, including the story about the caliph Harun al-Rashid and the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus who played a chess match through correspondence around the year 800, which ended in a real-life war. According to the story, Harun’s son al-Amin later died when his forces were under seige in Baghdad because he wouldn’t pause from a chess game that he was close to winning long enough to direct the forces defending the city. In the 16th century, Akbar, the grandson of Babur who had conquered northern India and founded the Mughal empire, built a life-size chessboard in a courtyard which used dancing girls and courtiers as pieces, and played from the apartments above.

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Thoughts inspired by “What the ‘Bleep’ Do We Know?”

I’m watching the movie “What the ‘Bleep’ Do We Know?” It’s an intriguing movie that pretty much says that everything that we assume to be true about reality is not what we think it is. I was moved by the idea that thought alone can substantially change our reality. The photos by Mr. Imoto of water molecules that appear to have been structurally changed by mental stimuli, such as a Zen-Buddhist blessing, and having words taped to their containers overnight, made me think a lot about how our bodies, which are 98% water, might be affected by the thoughts that we have about ourselves or the labels that we think are being put on us by our colleagues.

An interesting little side-note that was mentioned in the movie is that an outside observer looking at our brain as we’re thinking sees something very similar to what a thunderstorm looks like when looking down on the earth from outer space. That outside observer can’t tell what we’re thinking, but they can see evidence of the process. The analogy of a thunderstorm just made me envision the earth as a big brain, with some form of unseen consciousness, unable to be understood by us as outside observers, but experiencing some kind of coherent awareness nonetheless. Just an idea that was inspired by the dialogue… now you know without a doubt that I’m crazy!

On the subject of right and wrong: The movie stated that there is no right and wrong, but rather there are actions that will evolve us, and other actions which won’t. The movie left me pondering whether any action that contributes to my spirit’s growth can be considered bad. Taking the view of the movie, if there is a relationship between me and everything else in the universe, then my choices will affect each and every part of that universe. Each part has its own unique perspective on my actions. One part might see my actions as good while another sees the same actions as bad. It all depends on the perspective and the point of view of that part as an observer. In the end I believe that there probably are a great number of actions that I could take which, while they might lead to my own individual evolution, would also most likely be judged as “bad” from the point of view of the greater interconnected universe as a whole.

Here are my favorite quotes from the movie:

“I am much more than I think I am. I can be much more even than that. I can influence my environment, the people… I can influence space itself. I can influence the future. I am responsible for all those things. I and the surround are not separate; they’re part of one. I‘m connected to it all. I’m not alone…”

“Our purpose here is to develop our gifts of intentionality, and learn how to be effective creators.” “We are here to infiltrate space with ideas.”

“To acknowledge the quantum self, to acknowledge the place where we really have choice, to acknowledge mind… when that shift of perspective takes place, we say that somebody has been enlightened.”

“Welcome to the kingdom of heaven, without judgment, without hate, without testing, without anything… that we simply are allowed this reality that we call ‘real,’ from the power of intangibility, to pull out of inertness action, chaos, and hold it into its form, and we call it matter.”

The core of what I took away from the movie is this… if we say that reality is constructed in our own consciousness, then we instantly become more responsible for the reality that we experience. Mathematics can describe potential realities, but quantum physics is telling us that we each create the world that we experience from among myriad potential truths. “At the deepest, sub-nuclear level of our reality, you and I are literally one.” This makes me think that whatever we do affects each other. I need to consider my actions not because some god has decided that they are right or wrong, but because they will affect you and everything else in the universe. I guess it all comes down to the golden rule.