WHEN I WAS EMERGING (RELUCTANTLY) into adulthood, I wondered if I would live long enough to see the boundaries between religion and science come down like the Berlin Wall. I did.
Consider the phenomenon of quantum entanglement: Electrons have a property called “spin”, and it can be “up spin” or “down spin.” When two electrons are separated and the spin of one is flipped, the other flips — with no time lag, no matter how great the separation, apparently out to interstellar distances. Protons are also connected. Physicist Nassim Haramein has shown that protons connect with other protons and share information, such that a single proton has access to virtually all information in the universe. Scientists haven’t yet harnessed these properties for zero-time-lag communication. But after all, there was a time lag between using rockets for fireworks thousands of years ago and landing men on the moon. Haramein was ridiculed until his calculation of the charge radius of the proton was experimentally proven to be more accurate than any other prediction. In fact, after presenting his work at a conference of nuclear physicists, he was packing to leave before the ridicule began when the conference’s director called and told him he couldn’t leave because he was being given an award for the best paper of the conference.
I don’t know what a “charge radius” is, so what does it have to do with my little life here in this place? Well, since quantum entanglement is an observable phenomenon, and all the bazillions of my personal protons are connected to everything else, it means that every little thing I do connects to the big things going on in the universe.
All spiritualities teach that everything is connected, that every rock, plant, critter and politician is an expression of a unifying consciousness — whatever name we give it, or him or her. (I acknowledge the sorry record of religious beliefs used to generate and excuse bloodshed.) Millions of spiritual seekers have experienced this unity. I have myself on two occasions. But that hasn’t kept me from getting angry at times about the behavior of certain people, from Vladimir Putin to the jerk in the car that just cut me off.
So, science and spirituality are beginning to cohabit the same territory in our understanding of the world around us. It means that the little things of our lives are connected to bigger things that we can’t imagine or predict. That means being patient with food servers, helping the neighbor across the street with the snow in his driveway or not flipping off the jerk in the next lane. Many of us have been feeling discouraged and worried about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, helpless about the suffering, worried about the cost of a tank of gas and the price of a loaf of bread.
Last October we bought a derelict double-wide trailer with the intention of fixing it up and renting it out below the going rate, to help in a small way with the county’s housing crisis. It’s been a journey of discovery, to say the least. We were under an impossible deadline with a couple with three children desperately needing to move in before we could finish it. Then during the AgriSummit Conference, a couple volunteered to help us get a commode reinstalled. What should have taken 15 minutes took two hours, two trips across town to the hardware store and a wad of frustration. And these two angels drove an hour in each direction to help us. We hardly knew them, yet they offered their day to lend a hand. Actually four hands. I have to think their generosity is generating ripples in the quantum field that includes bombing children’s hospitals in Ukraine.
LAST NIGHT THE YOUNG FAMILY slept in their new home; and today I’ll go back to the trailer park to fix a leaky faucet, get both baths operating and make a list of other things to do. We don’t know if they’ll be able to meet their rent. There are no guarantees, just as our new friends from down-valley have no guarantee that we’ll reciprocate their gift of time and skills yesterday. An investment that includes a guaranteed return isn’t a gift; it’s a sale. Maybe we can do a little to turn the tide of extractive capitalism toward an economy that is more aligned with the natural world: one in which there is no waste, no homeless folks living a block away from million-dollar trophy homes.
My screensaver just turned up a photo of an ancient cottonwood tree, falling apart as they do in old age, with a litter of twigs, leaves and branches decomposing on the ground around it, healthy saplings thriving in the nourishing debris and lush grass growing right up to the huge old trunk. The cottonwood grew in a small stockyard that was abandoned decades ago. The way of life that existed when cows rubbed against its trunk is vanishing under the pressure of development based on the principle of maximized return on investment. Like the tree, the world economy is falling apart with the diseases of greed, dominance and false security. Unlike the tree’s decay, there is no reciprocity in the exchange.
But there is entanglement, nevertheless. The old tree is reborn in the saplings growing up in the gift of its limbs and leaves. The gift of our extractive economy, if you can call it that, is over-developed, eroding ground and bombed-out buildings. Both economies are co-existing for the time being. I’m betting on the gift economy to survive. I’m betting that our little gift of a modest home in a trailer park is entangled with the great war machines of the world. And I’m betting that if we can change the state of our one proton, we can be a meaningful part of changes in the world around us.
Ed Berg started his career as an enthusiastic participant in a world he little understood. The enthusiasm remains, although the ignorance is slowly eroding. Ed wavers between despair and delight but gets pushed back to vertical by the sweetness of rare friendships.