I have been reading some quantum physics with our youngest daughter and it has gotten me thinking. We usually consider matter as solid, but it is far from it.
The closer you get to looking at matter, the less material it seems to be. On close inspection, matter is made up of atoms which are mostly a vacuum with a little bit of something inside. Look into that little bit of something, and you find that it too is mostly a vacuum with a little bit of something inside. And you guessed it, inside that, you’ll find the same, without ever really getting to anything concretely substantial.
The book we are reading quotes Bill Bryson saying this about atoms in his book A Short History of Nearly Everything, “It is still a fairly astounding notion to consider that atoms are mostly empty space, and that the solidity we experience all around us is an illusion… When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimeter), your electron and its electrons implacably opposed to any closer intimacy.”
That is profound to think about, but I knew that before; long ago it was a launching point for the atheist in me to question matter’s dominance and begin to consider the possibility of God. But what I didn’t remember as clearly until reading this stuff recently is that all those little bits of something are constantly whirling around.
Yes, this table and chair are practically alive with jumping innards. And atoms never stop moving. They are in perpetual motion, even in what appears to us as solid. While you might think you are sitting still, your atoms are actually in constant motion. Physically, there is nothing solid underlying reality; made of atoms, it is first of all mostly a vacuum, and secondly it is always in a state of flux. Richard Feynman, America’s great physicist, says that this is the most important fact in all of science.
In Christian Science I have learned to “resolve things into thoughts,” which has been a very helpful practice for me. I am now learning that similarly, physicists resolve mass into energy. Because of the amazing formula E=mc2, mass and energy are interchangeable. Also, because mass is conserved (neither created nor destroyed) so is energy.
There are lots of applications of these ideas metaphysically. For example, I am over-weight, and frustrated with that fact because I neither overeat nor eat bad stuff. But with this new line of thinking, if I have more mass, I simply have more energy. I would much rather focus on using excess energy than trying to transfer mass. And it no longer makes sense that my metabolism would be slow, does it? I find these very freeing and transformational ideas.
And since I’ve been working on qualities of Spirit lately, it is not a far leap to translate the physics term “energy” into spiritual terms of activity, vitality, vigor, vivacity, motion, spiritedness, effervescence, liveliness, animation, ebullience, zest, mobility, vibrancy, power, etc. This is a much better way to identify myself: I am spiritual, instead of material!