I listened to this podcast from Krista Tippett’s On Being, in which physicist Brian Greene explains why the reality presented to us through our senses is so wrong, at least when compared with the mathematics of reality.
My last math class was in 1984, and this A-student made a “D,” so needless to say, the math behind the concepts is beyond me. But to hear that a mathematical description of creation contradicts what our senses tell us? “That’ll preach,” as preachers like to say – Meaning, that makes sense – Because as a spiritual person, as a person of a particular faith tradition, as a person called to live and practice a mindful life, I get it. I know we are surrounded by lies, and I know we are susceptible to lies, and I know we mistake lies for truth every single day.
Physicist Brian Greene has devoted his entire life to the mathematical understanding of the world, including how time is relative. But even though he studies, and teaches Einstein’s theory of relativity, and knows it inside and out, his human experience tells him that time is fixed, It moves forward in one direction at a fixed pace. You cannot go back. The past is gone. The future isn’t here. Even though mathematically, that’s not possible. It still FEELS right to him.
So: Bottom line for me: There are realities more real than our senses can perceive, and more real than our brains can know of their own accord. In fact, our senses and brains lie to us. (Think of the saber-tooth tiger masking as your angry spouse, co-worker, toddler or teen, who makes your blood boil as you get ready to fight or flee. Is your life REALLY in danger? Nah. It just FEELS that way, and our FEELINGS aren’t always accurate responses to reality.)
Anyway, our sense lie to us. Physicists know this. Mathematicians know this. Theologians know this. Yogis know this. Musicians know this. Lots of us, regardless of our training, know this. AND it is really, really, REALLY hard to remember. There are realities more real than we perceive.
But we’ve also got these minds that can remind us to take a breath, thank our brains and bodies for keeping us safe, and make more conscious decisions about how to proceed. It’s our minds that can practice working with the mechanics of our brains. But what athlete would wait for the day of competition to start training? No, you practice every day. Practice mindful prayer. Practice mindful attunement to what our bodies are saying. Practice attending to what our brains are thinking. Use the mind you’ve been given!