"A Swirling Mass of Atoms"
Most of the country has been held in the chilling grip of a severe winter this year as snowstorm after snowstorm has paralyzed cities and towns across the nation. This last week the temperatures out here in the Southern California desert have hovered around 80 degrees, so we certainly don't have to worry about severe winter weather. However, we do get our share of earthquakes like the one that woke me up this morning. It only lasted a few seconds - the ground beneath my feet shook, windows rattled, doors swayed to and fro and mountains rumbled.
This morning's earthquake was relatively mild - I've experienced much worse; but when you live in California you always know that the next one could be much worse - the walls might come tumbling down. As a matter of fact the very desert in which I live was formed by an earthquake that happened thousands and thousands of years ago with the radical shifting of the tectonic plates, and in an instant level ground was turned into towering mountains and a desert was formed at their base.
In the wake of this morning's little quake, I was reminded of one of the major teachings of Buddhist wisdom- the impermanence of everything and everyone in the entire universe. All is flux, all "being" is "becoming," a constant flow of change. The Buddha taught:
This existence of ours is transient as the clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lighting in the sky,
rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain.
Interestingly enough, 21st century quantum scientists pretty much say the same thing using mathematical formulae and the language of physics. Although the universe may appear to remain stable, everything that exists is a process of "becoming," nothing remains stable or stays the same, everything is constant flux.
I often think about something a physicist friend once told me as he described the universe as:
A swirling mass of atoms
It's sort of staggering to live in a place that seems as rock-solid as a desert with its ancient towering mountains of stone, knowing that it's all a bunch of atoms swirling around in a great cosmic dance, and I am swirling around right along with them.
The Buddhist teacher and philosopher, Alan Watts once said:
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it,
move with it, and join the dance.
I find great wisdom in this.
Rather than resisting the fundamental change which is at the heart of the universe, instead of pretending nothing changes, that everything is as it always was, I find great freedom in joining with the dance. Every day I am something new, in fact every moment of every second I am something new, so is everything else.
Some people get real scared about thinking of all this constant change-- not me. I believe that "change" isn't random. Everything flows together in one great rhythm-- it all dances to the beat of love, it flows with the energy of God, and so I can joyfully "plunge into it every day" without fear, with boldness and with trust.
And the dance goes on.