I’ve always been curious about the places where two things meet — two paths, two opportunities, two ideas — particularly if they seem like opposites.
Light and shadow. Water and land. Heaven and earth. Sleep and wakefulness. Work and play. Intellect and emotion. Religion and science.
After graduating college (the first time), I spent time exploring the boundaries of religion and science. Some authors wanted to merge the two. Others demanded hard boundaries. I met scientists who attended church, who held a place for wonder in their hearts, and religious people and scholars who understood what it meant to honor both the scientific method and our own subjective experiences of the world, who knew that we are more than science can fully explain but that science allows us to engage with the world in a different way than religion does. You could hold both without contradiction because they had different purposes in our lives.
There were of course the obvious perversions: people with no real scientific background claiming that quantum mechanics provided explanation for user-directed reality and people’s ability to manifest whatever they thought. I admittedly wanted to be one of these when I first entered the field — I wanted to show that religion and science could be blended together. But this was the wrong way of blending, one that actually dishonored both the mysteries of the world and our scientific knowledge. I quickly became an advocate for religion and science speaking to each other, informing each other, but not misappropriating the other’s beauty.
These days I think about the light and darkness within ourselves, the Western emphasis on light and beauty and goodness as pinnacle of achievement, while our darkness, our anger or rage, our ugliness is repressed. We are told the darkness is wrong, evil, something to be smothered out of us.
Last summer, I was listening to a friend speak about this. He had spent several months in the rainforests of South America studying with a shaman. The people there laugh at the way we’ve polarized the light and dark within ourselves. For them, it is all the same.
And science teaches us that the distinctions we make at the macro level are artifices — ways we attempt to organize and make sense of the world. But at the quantum level and further down into the rabbit hole of what makes everything up, there are no such distinctions. It all exists and does not exist.
As you move up the chain, from strings to atoms, to rocks and men, properties emerge. Light. Darkness. Colors. Sounds. Taste. Consciousness. Institutions and industries and endeavors. Creativity. Love.
Intersections are interesting places to play in. Sometimes the deeper we look at opposites the more the boundaries blur.