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Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

The President’s Tweets and the Future of Shame

posted by Admin

Last week the new Twitter account @POTUS of President Obama became a lightning rod for the worst in social media behavior. Within minutes of its setup, as reported in the New York Times, the account was flooded with vitriolic racist tweets, complete with hideous images, including one of Mr. Obama with his neck in a noose.  Many troubling issues arise from this shameful behavior, but at the center is shame itself.

 

Behavior on the Internet, Twitter, and other social media outlets has become shameless, and at the same time, these outlets are being used to publicly shame people, especially innocent high school students being electronically bullied by cruel classmates. Shameless behavior has no consequences, and social media and the Internet afford easy anonymity. Put these two elements together, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for anti-social trends that keep building and building.

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I can speak personally to this.  For years my Twitter account as well as the blogosphere has been replete with personal attacks against me, most of them from noisy skeptics of the Richard Dawkins stripe. Their chief complaint is that I am an enemy of science. In reality, I’ve published around a dozen peer-reviewed articles in science journals, interview premier scientists for cable television, and write books with the same front-rank scientists. But the facts don’t matter to people who act shamelessly.

 

The most recent brouhaha, which was totally pointless, arose in the Washington Post, where one of its blogs reprinted an attack from Mr. Steven Newton, a barely credentialed “scientist” with a master’s degree in geology who belongs to the scurrilous skeptical band. Stepping beyond the usual invective, he called me a creationist and evolution denier. It’s a contemptible accusation given my published record, where I have argued against both positions, not for them. But like the nonsensical conspiracy theory about Texas being taken over by martial law, or the Swift-boating of John Kerry, or the Obama birth-certificate crazies, social media and the Internet gives shameless people the widest platform ever conceived.

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We can’t legislate morality, much less suppress free speech. But two facts are undeniable: Shameful behavior is spreading out of control, and the evil genii can’t be put back in the bottle. In the days when print media were dominant, a newspaper retraction, although never as widely publicized as the false story about a person, at least had a fighting chance. Today, high schoolers have tried suicide, sometimes successfully, as their only escape from shameless behavior. And even after the suicide, the cyber-bullies mock and ridicule their victim.

 

To be realistic, every society has had ignorant, angry, and embittered members, and no one of adult age can be surprised that even the President of the United States is treated as if a lynching mob in the Old South had gathered. Racists, crazies, militant skeptics and their cohorts, the militant atheists, all believe in the story they peddle, and belief binds them in “mind-forged manacles,” to quote William Blake.

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The most famous rebuke to shamelessness was directed against the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy by a lawyer for the defense, Joseph N. Welch standing up for a client targeted by McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunt: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”  McCarthy didn’t apologize, because like the shameless on social media, he had no sense of decency. Welch was lucky that the cameras were rolling and his rebuke went public, allowing a decent American public to see McCarthy for what he was.

 

Today the problem is more disturbing because shameless people are at once public and anonymous. Their only aim is to get their victims to squeal; then they feel well rewarded. Human nature has two kinds of shame, the kind that comes from personal conscience, which keeps us aligned with our moral compass, and a toxic shame that attacks us in the night. A general sense of guilt we carry for no specific reason.  It’s toxic shame that these predators rely upon, which is why their victims go into deep distress even though they are innocent.

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Since it’s the worst in human nature that mounts shameless attacks and feels their sting, a very deep problem is facing us, where perpetrator and victim are bound together. In my own case, I find myself lashing out–I’ve done my best to bring Mr. Newton, my latest outrageous attacker, to his senses–but shaming the shameless rarely works. The only solution is to examine and heal our own collective shame, both the kind rooted in conscience and the toxic kind, so we can find a way to return to the decent America we still idealize.

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure.

 

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How the Universe Pulled a Vanishing Act

posted by Admin

The issues facing modern physics are so baffling that they’ve crossed a threshold and now fascinate the general public. We laymen have very little at stake, personally speaking, when scientists argue over the Big Bang—without advanced mathematical training, it’s all but impossible to follow the arguments. But we do have a stake when the universe starts to disappear, as it is doing right this minute.

 

The cosmic vanishing act began, approximately, when dark matter and dark energy showed up on the radar of cosmology. “Dark” is a misleading term, because the space between the stars is pitch black, but it isn’t dark in the way that dark matter and energy are. They are dark as in totally mysterious. No light is given off by them, or any known form of energy we associate with the universe. They cannot be measured, and so far as anyone can guess, dark matter is probably not constituted of anything resembling atoms or subatomic particles.

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The reason that dark matter and energy are important is arcane to the layman, having to do with the fact that instead of moving apart at a constant rate or slowing down, the galaxies are accelerating as they move away from each other. This acceleration defies gravity, so at the very least dark energy is some species of antigravity (to put it in very general terms—the actual nature of this unknown force is complex, arcane, and much speculated over).

 

Even knowing this, you may shrug your shoulders and ignore such an abstruse problem, until you discover that only around 4% of the created universe is accounted for by the matter and energy visible to the eye or to scientific instruments, bound up in galaxies and interstellar dust. The vast majority, around 96% is dark, hence unknown. Far beyond the abstractions of scientific theory, the known and knowable universe slipped out of reach—that’s the cosmic vanishing act.

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Annoyed physicists can attach comments to the effect that a mere layman has no business poking his ignorant nose into their profession, a line of inquiry where quantum mechanics is boasted of as the most precise theory in scientific history.  Which is laudable, but it does seem as if someone has patched a hole in a flat tire and claims to have built the whole car. As headlines are grabbed by the discoveries made at billion-dollar particle accelerators, the whole fabric of reality is being shredded to tatters.

 

If you have heard the terms multiverse, string theory, superstring theory, and dark matter and energy, you need to realize the unmentioned problems with all of them:

 

  1. None of these things called strings, superstrings, or multiverses has ever been observed.
  2. There is every likelihood that they never will be observed.
  3. None can be experimented upon in order to prove whether they exist or not. (There are supposedly some exceptions having to do with prying evidence out of the quantum field for dark matter, but no success yet.)
  4. There is a good chance that the hidden fabric of reality cannot in fact be known through scientific means. Dark matter and energy, for example, if they are outside the framework of all forms of discovered matter and energy, may be so alien to our brains (which are composed of that ordinary matter and energy) that they are literally inconceivable.
  5. If 96% of creation is conceivable, all the brilliant mathematical models in the world can’t undo the fact that the universe, as we conceive of it, has vanished.

 

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These aren’t just theoretical difficulties. What we are finding out is that reality isn’t what science has been describing. Instead, science has been relying on an assumption that measuring something and fitting it into a neat mathematical model is the same as knowing what’s real. This is like a deaf person examining a graph of the sound frequencies associated with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and claiming that he knows the music. The fact that you have a map in your hands doesn’t mean you have experienced the territory.

 

Someone should have predicted the vanishing universe long ago. The famous physicist-astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington is often quoted as saying, “Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.” These words are generally taken as a quip from an era decades ago before physics had figured out so much about the cosmos that a Theory of Everything was just around the corner. But the quip should be taken soberly. Even a confident mind like Stephen Hawking has more or less given up on the Theory of Everything, settling for a patchwork of smaller theories that will serve to explain local domains of physics.

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Yet the obvious point to be drawn isn’t technical and requires no Oxbridge postgraduate degrees: Reality is still unknown. The more one contemplates this strange situation, the more uneasy the situation becomes.

 

Aren’t all these subatomic particles getting us closer to the nature of matter and energy? No, because at bottom, matter isn’t material. It isn’t tangible or visible.

 

Doesn’t scientific research count for anything? That depends. If most of the universe is totally inconceivable—or even well hidden—empirical data has reached its limit. The so-called subempirical domain may be running the whole show.

 

But surely the scientific method is the greatest tool ever devised by the rational mind. It has gotten us where we are today, at the height of understanding Nature, hasn’t it? Dubious. All theories ae right about what they include and wrong about what they exclude.  The scientific method, with its basis in reducing difficult problems to manageable bits and pieces that can be explicated, happens to exclude consciousness. It fails to entertain that we haven’t the slightest idea how the brain’s gray matter produces the mind. There is no biological basis for thinking. No one knows what preceded the Big Bang, if that’s even a meaningful question, since the Big Bang may be the beginning of time and space as we know it.

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These aren’t just gaps in a fabric that needs mending and more weaving. They strike at the false assumption that if you measure a thing, you know the thing. Reality can’t be modeled; it’s infinite, every-changing, mostly hidden from view, based on inconceivable beginnings, and at times walled off even from mathematics, the primary language of science.

 

So what’s next? In practical terms, the world will crank along doing what it’s already doing, and this inertia applies to science too. No doubt 99% of practicing scientists go to work without considering any of the points I’ve raised. Why bother—the whole thing sounds like metaphysics, which 20th-century science assumed was dead and buried.

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What matters isn’t so much the fate of science, which has created its own self-sustained world. But it’s unsettling to realize that, “Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.” More than unsettling. Humans want to know what’s real and what’s not. Our minds depend on it, and it’s with our minds that we are human. Until the mind can touch reality and be sure that it’s not an illusion, the human project has been stalled, and scientific reassurances aren’t going to help us move forward again.

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure.

 

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Is Nature About to Abandon Us?

posted by Admin

Feeling guilty about climate change hasn’t proved to be a good motivator. The most recent report on greenhouse gas emissions puts March at a record-breaking level of emissions. Presidential urging doesn’t move Congress to take significant steps at solving the issue. The world community passes well-meaning resolutions that don’t lead to major global cooperation.

 

We are headed on a downward track, and everybody knows it. But we already know that guilt is a poor motivator. Fear is somewhat better, because it implies imminent harm, yet if the Earth is the Titanic and climate change is the iceberg, there’s enough open sea between us and catastrophe to lull the passengers into one more round of champagne and caviar.

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I’m convinced that the problem will only be solved through higher awareness, not in a lofty spiritual sense but simply by applying self-awareness in place of guilt and fear. Instead of turning our backs on possibilities we’re afraid to confront, we could embrace a positive emotion that everyone agrees upon, which is the feeling that humanity is bound with Nature.  What we’re up against is the equivalent, more than a century ago, of the mass distress over losing faith in God. Only in our time, we are about to lose faith in Nature.

 

It’s still shocking that the rise in ocean temperature of only a few degrees should lead to such rapid and devastating effects: extreme weather patterns, die offs of coral reefs, melting of the polar ice caps and more. It’s like finding out that someone you love and trust has turned away because of a spat you can barely remember.

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The Earth outdoes any lover in its nurturing relationship to human beings, and life in general. We barely understand the intricate ways in which our genes are woven into the fabric of life, but it is known that microbes dating back billions of years were key in building human DNA and continue to play a major role in it to this day. There is no us-versus-them when it comes to planetary life. Earth’s loss is our personal loss, Earth’s gain our personal gain.

 

In the simple idea of “I am the Earth, the Earth is me,” we could educate future generations to take a completely new and healing attitude. For centuries the theme of man conquering Nature has treated the planet on a war footing. Many people, including the most educated and responsible, still implicitly hold this view, only the tables have turned. Nature is winning the battle. We all understand, even if we can’t admit it to ourselves, that Homo sapiens could disappear overnight and the Earth wouldn’t notice. The ecology would rebalance itself in our absence, given a period of adjustment.

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The result, in our own mentality, is a push-pull between hating what the planet is doing to us and taking responsibility for the harm we have done to it. Neither attitude is productive. The institutions that govern wealth and prosperity, from Wall Street to the local power company, coal mines, car makers, and so on, will defend the status quo because, in the end, we ask them to. They advocate selfish denial as our proxies.

 

Which means, if you follow this line of reasoning, that only a shift in awareness can cut through old conditioned habits. Awareness is infinitely more important than an action plan. Action plans built insane nuclear stockpiles during the Cold War. Awareness created that war and eventually a shift in awareness ended it. The same is true of climate change. Our actions keep it going. Our attitudes will either change it or await disaster with white-knuckle dread.

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We need to instigate, in our children and in ourselves, some beliefs that are true if we make them true.

  • The Earth exists to nurture all life, with no special treatment for human beings.
  • In humility and gratitude we revere all life.
  • Morality consists in doing no harm to life.
  • Our personal happiness doesn’t depend on conquering Nature.
  • Cooperation with natural forces is the only way past the imbalances we’ve caused.
  • We can trust Nature to support our evolution if we support planetary balance.

 

None of these are revolutionary ideas, and being realistic, they won’t save us until a critical mass of the world’s population starts to adopt them. But it’s valuable to know what the life-saving beliefs actually are, as opposed to the self-destructive ones humanity has been stuck with in the industrial and post-industrial age. How insane is it, after all, to build weapons of mechanized death that drain hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy while spending a pittance to avoid the iceberg that our luxury liner is heading toward so inexorably?

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure.

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How to Be at Peace When the World Isn’t

posted by Admin

We seem to be living out the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” The curse is probably mythical, but our interesting times contain much turbulence. The horrific refugee situation in Syria, the rise of the even more horrific ISIS movement, not to mention Ukraine and news of natural disasters that never ends–from media reports you might think the humanity is unraveling and the planet with it.

 

But in the face of chaos, some facts remain constant and stable:

 

To advance the cause of peace, you must be at peace.

The wars around the world reflect a war in human nature.

No dispute is ever settled unless both sides achieve a level of mutual satisfaction.

 

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When politics comes down to rigidly opposing views, such as one side wanting armed intervention in the Middle East while the other side wants to stay out, all of these facts are being ignored. That’s why the Iraq War ended in chaos, because the issues were never resolved so that all sides achieved mutual satisfaction, and why grudges that simmered for centuries suddenly erupt today.

 

But the fact that is critical is the first one. You can’t help the cause of peace unless you are peaceful. This means several things on the personal level:

You sympathize with all suffering, no matter which side you take in a conflict.

You don’t see violence as the solution.

You can detach yourself from judgment and blame.

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You don’t give in to us-versus-them thinking.

 

If you can achieve these things, you will stop being inflamed by constant streams of bad news from around the world. You will be detached form partisanship, and you won’t buy into demagoguery. People who aren’t at peace are sucked in by the thrill and anguish of catastrophic events, and when that happens even a President can act out of impaired judgment, leading the nation into reckless ventures doomed to failure from the start.

 

It’s sometimes hard to accept that being at peace is actually a form of “active detachment.” It’s active in that you want to help the situation. It’s detached in that you keep your head about you and see that the world doesn’t change from crisis to crisis–it changes when people’s awareness changes. To an outsider religious disputes seem pointless and totally unnecessary. But if your worldview tells you that God is testing your faith every moment, detachment isn’t possible.

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To be at peace doesn’t detach you from the values you get emotionally involved with, but it guards you against the constricted awareness that fuels conflict. I think that Pope Francis understands active detachment. He stands above the fray, as all Popes do, to minister to humanity, but at the same time, unlike many of his predecessors, Francis doesn’t stand idly by but offers practical proposals.  It’s totally worthwhile, even morally our obligation, to aid the programs that might heal divisions and ultimately the planet. But a viable action plan must come from peace or else it has no chance of succeeding.

 

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure.

 

Previous Posts

The President's Tweets and the Future of Shame
Last week the new Twitter account @POTUS of President Obama became a lightning rod for the worst in social media behavior. Within minutes of its setup, as reported in the New York Times, the account was flooded with vitriolic racist tweets, ...

posted 11:02:41am May. 25, 2015 | read full post »

How the Universe Pulled a Vanishing Act
The issues facing modern physics are so baffling that they’ve crossed a threshold and now fascinate the general public. We laymen have very little at stake, personally speaking, when scientists argue over the Big Bang—without advanced ...

posted 11:01:48am May. 18, 2015 | read full post »

Is Nature About to Abandon Us?
Feeling guilty about climate change hasn’t proved to be a good motivator. The most recent report on greenhouse gas emissions puts March at a record-breaking level of emissions. Presidential urging doesn’t move Congress to take significant ...

posted 2:42:12pm May. 11, 2015 | read full post »

How to Be at Peace When the World Isn't
We seem to be living out the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." The curse is probably mythical, but our interesting times contain much turbulence. The horrific refugee situation in Syria, the rise of the even more horrific ISIS ...

posted 11:11:24am May. 04, 2015 | read full post »

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Jordan Flesher, MA Psychology   The human mind can adapt to almost anything, but not chaos. No one can lead a completely random and chaotic life. The messy room of a teenager may look completely chaotic, but ...

posted 1:54:05pm Apr. 27, 2015 | read full post »

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