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20. Yin Yang, Novelty Habit, and Quality

20. Yin Yang, Novelty Habit, and Quality

So it’s been a few days since I wrote that last semi-panicked chapter. I’m fine now, really fine. Had an amazing day today full of discovery and goodness. Working on developing my Buddha nature has already begun to pay back in such happiness and equanimity that I am actually considering abandoning my quest for a cure via the shamanic ayahuasca and instead focus on trying to cure myself or at least find serenity in Buddhism.

But that’s not what this chapter’s about. It’s just an update on my condition for those of you who are interested. Now to get to the meat….

Most people, including westerners are familiar with the Chinese concept of Yin Yang. The notion is that all of reality can be broken into two categories that each depends on the other for their own existence, and that together form what is.

The symbol of the white/black “S” shape drawn through a circle creating two fish shaped figures white and black is probably even more well know.

The origin of the terms is the Chinese words for the two sides of a mountain. The sunny side and the shady side. It is important to understand that there is no way that a mountain can exist without both sides. That is why those words were chosen to represent two opposites, that each must exist for the other to exist.

Sounds kind of nutty said that way, but this is where illustrations help.

Can there be up without down?

Can there be long without short?

Can there be wide without narrow?

Can there be succinctness without long-windedness? Heh!

Get the idea?

It’s like two poles of a magnet. You can’t have a plus without a minus. There’s no way you can cut off one from the other. You just end up with two smaller magnets, each with two poles.

The Chinese believe that all of reality consists of these “opposites” that each rely on the other to exist. That’s the basic concept of Yin Yang.

The I Ching, which came later, consists of 64 “hexagrams” of Yin Yang organizations. These 64 are supposed to be the only ways that reality can be arranged.

The Chinese would say that perfect health cannot exist without illness/death. Each relies on the other to exist. Because of that, they can be viewed as ONE even though they are opposites.

The circle is the one, and death and life are the two halves of the one that depend on each other to exist.

At least a portion, if not the greatest portion of my current equanimity can be attributed to my understanding and acceptance of the Yin Yang model as the best model for reality that humans have managed to concoct. Death is no longer the “threat” I used to feel it was. That removes a great deal of anxiety instantaneously.

I know it sounds silly to say that any metaphysical conception can do us any good, but I can simply report how it affected me.

There is a Western version of essentially the same idea. Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality breaks reality down into two opposites that need each other. Static Quality and Dynamic Quality. Yin and Yang.

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was where Pirsig introduced the idea, and Lila was the book in which he brought it to fruition. Before I studied much Eastern religion, I was a Pirsig fanatic. I must have read or listened to those books a dozen times. He was trying to change the way we view reality, from object as being primary to relationship as being primary.

That’s a mouthful, I know… Sorry. Let’s see how I do in explaining this mouthful…

The classic Western “common sense” comes down to us from Sir Isaac Newton. That common sense tells us that the universe is made up of objects that may or may not develop relationships. But the objects exist regardless of whether there are any relationships developed.

Pirsig chose the word “quality” to describe the relationship between two objects. But under Pirsig’s Metaphysics, the relationship is what creates the objects. That’s what I meant above when using the term “primary”. Which comes first?

It makes no sense to the Western mind to view relationship as primary. That’s a real disability we all suffer from because our own science has proven to us over and over that relationship is primary.

Once again, let’s play with examples.

Imagine an infinite, empty universe that contains only one object. Can that object move?

Imagine the same only with two objects passing each other. Which one is moving? Is either still?

The point I’m making here, is that it is relationship and relationship alone that “creates” motion.

Get it?

Moving right along here, Einstein’s Special Relativity teaches that it is the relationship between the objects that determines how each will experience the other.

Muons are extremely short lived particles that are created when gamma rays hit our atmosphere. They are so short lived that there’s no way any should make it to ground level before decaying even given their near light speed.

And yet Muons make it down all the time. What?! Not possible!

Yes, possible. The relationship between the muon and the earth which is near light speed slows the muon’s experience of time to one seventh that on earth. So the muon survives seven times longer than it should in our reality because in its reality it decays as quickly as it should decay in our reality.

That is considered the hardest physical proof we have of the Special Theory of Relativity. You have to admit, it’s a pretty damn good proof. But once again, it is divorced from Western common sense because it places primacy on relationship over objects.

Sorry, we’re back to quantum physics again…

The primacy of relationship over object is everywhere you look in the quantum dimension. The math always works. It’s the most verified theory in the history of physics. The problems only emerge when you try to describe what happens in language rather than math. The result is hopeless paradoxes in all directions, but ONLY if one insists on the primacy of object over relationship. (Our “common sense”.)

Let’s go out in the garden…

Which came first, the flower or the bee?

Which side holds up the other side on that sawhorse?

What makes the shoreline of the pond?

Clearly it’s the relationships in the above examples that are primary. We know that, but it makes us “feel funny” to think that way so we avoid it.

Einstein had a “beginner’s mind” as Gary Zukov points out in The Dancing Wu-Li Masters. That’s what made it possible for him to come up with Special Relativity. All he did was change the biggest paradox of his time, the constant speed of light, into a postulate from which he redrew reality according to the relationships between object.

Bottom line, our “common sense” is wrong. And not just down on the quantum level. Pretty much everywhere you look.

I know better, but it’s still my common sense. I don’t know how to change that. Maybe if I was a real physicist and could move in their world of math I could understand better, even if I couldn’t put it into words. Maybe.

To close this circle, I’d like to bring up Terence McKenna’s Time Wave, based on his Novelty Theory.

Novelty theory has a few basic tenets:

  • That the universe is a living system with a teleological attractor at the end of time that drives the increase and conservation of complexity in material forms.
  • That novelty and complexity increase over time, despite repeated set-backs.
  • That the human brain represents the pinnacle of complex organization in the known universe to date.
  • That fluctuations in novelty over time are self-similar at different scales. Thus the rise and fall of the Roman Empire might be resonant with the life of a family within a single generation, or with an individual’s day at work.
  • That as the complexity and sophistication of human thought and culture increase, universal novelty approaches a Koch curve of infinite exponential growth.
  • That in the time immediately prior to, and during this omega point of infinite novelty, anything and everything conceivable to the human imagination will occur simultaneously.
  • That the date of this historical endpoint is December 21, 2012, the end of the long count of the Mayan calendar. (Although many interpretations of the “end” of the Mayan calendar exist, partly due to abbreviations made by the Maya when referring to the date, McKenna used the solstice date in 2012, a common interpretation of the calendar among New Age writers, although this date corresponds to such an abbreviation rather than the full date. See Mayan calendar for more information on this controversy.) Originally McKenna had chosen the end of the calendar by looking for a very novel event in recent history, and using this as the beginning of the final 67.29 year cycle; the event he chose was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which gave an end-date in mid-November of 2012, but when he discovered the proximity of this date to the end of the current 13-baktun cycle of the Maya calendar, he adjusted the end date to match this point in the calendar.[1][2]

This End of History was to be the final manifestation of The Eschaton, which McKenna characterized as a sort of strange attractor towards which the evolution of the universe developed. – Wikipepia

As nutty as all this sounds, it’s very closely related to Yin/Yang. Novelty and Habit are almost synonyms for Yang and Yin. Not only that, The timewave itself is a combination of numerology and mathematics. It is formed out of McKenna’s interpretation and analysis of numerical patterns in the King Wen sequence of the I Ching (the ancient Chinese Book of Changes), which we know represent all the possible combinations of Yin/Yang.

The biggest change from our “common sense” in McKenna’s Time Wave is that progress is not the result of past achievements so much as it is being pulled forward by some source ahead of us in time. This is not as absurd to modern physics as it is to common sense. The easiest way to work with anti-particles is to treat them as particles moving backward in time. That doesn’t prove they move backward in time, but given time’s altered effects in the quantum level, it wouldn’t necessarily be impossible.

The notion is that what causes time to flow forward is the second law of thermodynamics. That law states that in a closed system disorder will increase over time. That disorder increase is what makes time irreversible on the macro level. On the quantum level however, the second law doesn’t apply. Thus there is no “arrow of time” on that level.

All these non-Western metaphysical outlooks would allow me to cure this MS, I think. It’s hard for me to put my finger on what it is about each one that gives me hope, but the overall effect is to show me once again that our “common sense” ain’t necessarily so…

July 16, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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