Acquiring what was ours all along

O Reader! (yes, ’tis you whom I’m addressing)
What draws you to this page of tawdry verse?
If what you seek is succor, boon or blessing,
Why, any other text could be no worse.
Diversion, or a passage through life’s thicket?
—The eyes meander, absent your direction—
Each poem represents a raffle ticket,
The prize at stake is but your soul’s reflection.

A fleeting impulse makes us crack the book,
Though the gesture issues from a deeper quest.
We long to hear that resonant, deep song
Our inner listening long ago forsook.
Great music, art or poems at their best
Attest what was inside us all along.

— Josh Mitteldorf

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Heighten the Senses

Warm October mornings, moonless before the first light of dawn, a perfect time to walk in the woods. Find the path with your feet. Listen for subtle crunching of leaves and branches if you step to one side or the other. Be aware of your fear or your peace or your anxiety or your wonder. Witness your inner workings as you witness the world outside, from a slight distance, full engagement, no judgment.

— Josh Mitteldorf


Intuitive Foundations of Truth

Once we have begun to heal from the social conditioning that has diverted us from the inner reality we know most intimately and denied the validity of our instinctual knowledge, we may find ourselves asking:

   “What stands between me and a life driven and directed by my deepest passion?”

The question may become another diversion, a detour into therapies and spiritual practices, an incitement to making plans and deferring joy—analysis substituting for action.

There may arrive the right moment for a leap of faith, when we ignore all the valid and well-reasoned arguments to the contrary and burst forth in pursuit of our passion.


Vortices of Light, fabric art © Meryl Ann Butler


Not just the same, they really are one thing.

The least-written about of the bizarre, counter-intuitive features of quantum mechanics is the treatment of indistinguishable particles.  It goes to the heart of (one way) in which quantum reality is different from the everyday reality we deduce from our senses.

To a high degree of approximation, at temperatures we’re acclimated to, the nucleus of an atom has a distinct existence that continues over days and weeks and thousands of years.  But this is not true of electrons.

One way to think about it: Electrons are constantly swapping identities with one another.  Another way: at any given point in space and time, there is a probability of an instance of electron stuff popping out of a probability sea and appearing, but there is no meaning attached to “which electron” it is. A third way: there is only one electron in all the universe, and it travels forward and backward in time*, appearing in different circumstances as though it were a different electron.

The equations of Newton predict the motion of individual particles, but not so the equation of Schrödinger; quantum mechanical equations are about a configuration—think of it as a gestalt, or an entire situation.  The Schrödinger equation tells how one gestalt might evolve into another, and each gestalt contains a field of probabilities that an electrons will appear at any given place and time.  But the Schrödinger equation says nothing about which electron it is that appears; in fact, it takes explicit account of the fact that all the “different” electrons might be swapping their identities.

Physicists are divided concerning how to think about quantum reality.  Most take the pragmatic approach and use QM to calculate the result of experiments, but don’t try to draw metaphysical inferences.  But other physicists argue passionately about what the equations are trying to tell us about reality.

For me, QM is one gateway to mysticism. What is clear is that the solid reality that logical positivists and reductionist science take for reality is not reality at all, but an illusion.  If we have intimations of connectedness and of larger blueprints that infuse meaning into isolated events, then quantum reality gives support and encouragement for taking them seriously, even for deepening and expanding our inborn beliefs.

(For those interested in thinking more along these directions, I recommend Nick Herbert’s book.)


*When it travels back in time, it appears to us as a positron, another name for an anti-electron.


What are people for?

There are cultures in which people have existential angst, and cultures in which they don’t.

There are cultures in which death is regarded as an ultimate tragedy and cultures in which death is regarded as part of the cycle of life.

There are cultures in which suicide rates are negligible, though feelings of terror about life’s end are absent.

There are cultures in which it seems natural that some individuals are better than others, and cultures in which everyone has a valued place.

We co-create our culture (in some cultures with a higher participation rate than others).  What kind of culture would you like to live in?

Perhaps before we can address that question, it is useful to get outside our own culture, to live in another part of the world or to become intimate with someone whose values, beliefs, and way of being in the world are very different from your own.

— Josh Mitteldorf