(Zen and Science 3)
Few people visit the old exhibits, assembled before the age of computer interactions, that are found in every Natural History Museum. These display cases chronicle the history of understanding the earth. People of with extraordinary insight and dedication began to unravel the mystery of their home—the molten core (Oldham, 1906), ice ages and glaciers (Agassiz, 1840), Continental Drift (Taylor, 1908), magnetic pole reversals (Brunhes, 1906). Their names are largely forgotten but the extensions of their work are common knowledge to grade school students today.
This science began replacing ignorance with an understanding of the processes of nature. The processes of the earth were found to just occur naturally and continuously. Each event in the earth’s chronicle is independent, but interconnected. There can be no prediction of the results or direction. Just unceasing interconnected change. Nature operating in its own incomparable, perfect splendor.
Bodhidharma was a fifth century Buddhist monk credited with bringing Zen from India to China. His surviving writings are few, but to the point:
“The way is basically perfect, it does not require perfection.”
Human life is nature itself, not distinct or apart from it. Our activities are also the processes of nature.
Humans also have the gift to be conscious of these activities. Ideas about the activities arise. Ideas of progress, goals, comparisons, and judgments arise. It is easy to get caught up in these and to judge the result of the activity. Such ideas have their place, but the balance is often lost. Allowing these functions undue emphasis leads obscures the splendor of our own natural activities.
When fully present in the activity or process of the moment, there is no room for comparison, for ideas. It is complete. The perfection of the moment can be experienced.
How do we regain our natural gifts? Slow the mind to experience the natural process each in their own way.
** (If a Natural History Museum is not convenient, you can find details out on the Web, Wikipedia, or in the very readable book “A short history of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson)