Science developed from the human compulsion to explain things, either to another or to oneself. Perhaps this could be seen as the early stirrings of wisdom, prājña – an inherent inquisitiveness and curiosity of one’s own mind (one’s own field of knowing) that is both precise and playful at the same time. The compulsion to explain is itself founded on an assumption of what biologist Humberto Maturana often refers to as structural determinism, the assumption that things are composed of dynamically interacting components.
Non-scientific explanations, what we might call common, every day explanations, involve first of all proposing a generative process that if allowed to run should give rise to whatever it is we wish to explain. And then, accepting this as an explanation, based on a usually hidden and largely unconscious emotional bias or preference.
What makes science special is the criteria for accepting an explanation as being valid. First one becomes clear about what one wants to explain. Then one proposes a generative process or mechanism that if allowed to run should give rise to whatever it is you wish to explain. Then one deduces entailments or likely phenomena that should accompany this particular generative mechanism or process. We then create or contrive situations (called experiments) in which the experience or non-experience of these entailments brings confidence as to whether or not the proposed generative process can be regarded as a useful explanation.
There are two kinds of science. Conventional science is often carried out in the laboratory of a university or research institute. Contemplative science is carried out in the laboratory of our moment to moment living – the experiential knowing of the researcher. From a Buddhist perspective we might say that contemplative science takes place in the laboratory of the multi-realmed functioning of one’s own body/brain/mind/community.
I’d like to try to express these ideas in a more poetic way. Go outside at night, and reacquaint yourself with where you are – a patch of land on the surface of a revolving sphere of condensed stardust, nestled in the radiance of a star, all of this embedded in the wheel of the galaxy, all of it evolving in the gravitational embrace of many galaxies. This world of experience we are collaboratively bringing forth with others is a profoundly integrated matrix of intimately intermeshing living process. How does this happen? How did it come about that we perceive many interacting individuals? What responsibilities do we have for each other?
it seems I am blinded by light,
yet in the darkness,
I begin to see.
Clear night sky,
the wheel of the galaxy arcing around me,
the horizon – a halo of atmospheric dust and diffused star glow,
and I realise, yet again,
I am embedded in sangha;
moving trees, mountains, hooting owls and river sound,
and ghostly kinaesthetic presence.
Contemplative science begins with reverence and wonder
and a mysterious desire to understand.
It begins as reverence in the temple of the universe.
Embedded in the galaxy.
Embedded in the sun.
Embedded in the planet.
I look out, and in my mind’s eye see the vastness of space.
I look in, and see through eyes of anatomy, histology, chemistry, and physics,
nearly as far ‘in’ as I can see ‘out’
and I wonder who I am.
Consciously and imaginatively I cultivate my skills in extending
love for every member of this evolving community of interbeing,
this symphony of becoming,
this holoversing in multi-part harmony.
Breathing with green plants – transformed star dust –
whirling vortices of living systems, communing
through contact and exchange.
I cannot live without you,
– each and every one of you –
my immediate mothering, fathering, brothering, sistering sangha,
a family of burgeoning life.
Visualizing living on a sphere.
Rain and apples falling inward.
The entire planet entwined in the sun.
We began as a sphere,
a fertilized egg, buried in our mother.
Can we expand our vision of this journey?
clumpings of relating.
Some clumps called planets, some called stars, some called interstellar space.
Clusterings of clumpings
whirling presences of specified autocatalytic chemistries;
linkings, and linkings of linkings,
Rosaries of reflective process,
Garlands of flowering flowerings.
Richer and richer detail
more and more prolific,
Hummings of autopoiesis – the dawning of responsive awareness
aware-ing itself into existence,
and telling this story.
Contemplating embodiment, a process self-contemplating,
a universe of inter-responsive densities of knowing-in-motion.
Gyres of form appearing and disappearing,
flowings of becoming,
this river of living,
these accapelling symphonies:
jazz combos, folk groups,
rock bands, and marching drums,
choral groups, choirs, and orchestras;
interweaving gatherings of gathering;
continuous fantastic, extravaganzic improvisation,
linking and adapting,
and stretching out on a limb – ecstatic in the risk.
Advancing and retreating,
‘finger-dancing’ all over
shapings of shapings in form and knowing and
beyond forms of knowing.
And arising in this dance are concepts:
beginnings, and endings,
and birth and death,
and self, and others,
and matter, and mind,
and health, and illness;
these mysteries, opaque and thing-like,
this torrent of musing music.
Contemplating this contemplation
this . . . ??????
(In Lewis Carroll’s “Hunting of the Snark” the one who actually finds the Snark
is last seen ‘disappearing over the horizon’ saying, “It’s a boooooooo !!!!!!!!”)
Releasing in contemplation
Surrender in all dimensions
The horizon ‘disappears us’,
as the choir crescendos
It’s an AHHHHHH !!!!!!!!
Into the music.
The physicist, David Bohm, once wrote in “The Special Theory of Relativity” that, scientific investigation is basically a mode of extending our perception of the world – not mainly a mode of obtaining knowledge about it. I think this applies to dharma exploration as much as it does for science. If science developed from the human compulsion to explain things, either to another or to oneself, then in this sense, great artists are scientists who do this in uniquely innovative ways. May we humans everywhere, live in ways that encourage and support the innate natural tendency in our children and grandchildren, to courageously question and explore and to share their enthusiasms with all they meet on the way.