Zen Buddhism: Its Extraordinary Insights and Total Failures

The Inter-Connectedness of All Things

Try to imagine where the external world ends and the internal world called you, begins. We could start at the skin, but under the microscope, we find a rich layer of bacteria swarms your skin. You wouldn’t identify with these bacteria as you, but they play a very important role in our survival by keeping our immune system functioning well. We could continue further under the microscope to find another layer of dead skin cells, which we also wouldn’t think of as us. And the deeper we go, we find it becomes more and more arbitrary to find the point where we begin and the rest of the world ends.

It may be more precise to think of ourselves as a sort of whirlpool of energy, as Alan Watts best described it. We are a single point in space-time where energy speeds up, gets converted into other forms of energy, (kinetic, chemical, thermal, etc), and then passes through into another form of energy. And so the saying, “we are a part of the universe becoming aware of itself,” begins to make a more sense.

And the deeper you explore this idea, the more you begin to realize just how interrelated everything is — this is where the symbol of the ying-yang originates. The concept of light requires the concept of darkness, and vice versa. The concept of sound requires a human ear, or there is no concept of sound. This is the real answer to the question, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” All sound requires a human ear, for who else would hear it? The rocks? Without an ear, sound is simply a vibration — a meaningless wiggle.

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