There Is No Limit To This Moment

I would like to thank Fritjof Capra. Like millions of others since 1975, I own a copy of The Tao Of Physics. I have the 1982 Flamingo paperback edition, pages dog-eared and yellowed, cluttered with scribbles and highlights, re-read often. The subtitle of this book summarizes its attractiveness: ‘An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism’. Sounds daunting, but its relaxed, easy-going style is seductive, and by the end of the book you feel that you know it all, or, alternatively, you know nothing, but hey, there’s no difference between all or nothing.

After some brief paragraphs on the Eastern religions, Capra then follows with nine brilliant chapters linking those religious or philosophical concepts to modern physics. In ‘The Unity of All Things’ he quotes Heisenberg: ‘Natural Science (ie Physics)…is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves’. ‘Beyond the World of Opposites’ covers the quantum disparity between rest and movement and observation, and Capra quotes one of those frustratingly disturbing Zen sayings: ‘At dusk the cock announces dawn; at midnight, the bright sun’. It’s not meant to be understood, but to upset our sensibilities, sort of like quantum physics, you know, the particle is there until you try to measure it. The Void is an integral part of Buddhism, and Capra discusses this under ‘Emptiness and Form’ and tells us that, in physics, matter and space are inseparable. Every one of those nine short superb chapters is enthralling.

My favourite? ‘Space-Time’ because none of us understands infinity, which is a real drag. Capra has curved spheres and arrows and vectors, all good, but, you know, his best scientific citation comes from Huinang, a 7th Century Zen master, said to be illiterate, a most important figure of his time. Capra quotes him: ‘The absolute tranquillity is the present moment. At this moment there is no limit to this moment, and herein is eternal delight’. Yeh, I don’t understand it either, but it will have to do, er, for the moment.

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