I am pleased to announce that several eminent meditation teachers and yogis have joined together to form a new environmental organization called The Friends of The Void. This group is dedicated to the preservation of the void in its natural and undefiled state. Members of the organization have pledged to work to keep the void free from any forms, feelings, thoughts, matter, concepts and condominiums. The Friends of The Void has begun its conservation efforts with a publicity campaign centered around the slogans “Keep the Void Empty,” “Nothing is Perfect” and “The Void is to be Enjoyed.” For more information or to join, just empty your mind. Your contributions and suggestions will be warmly rejected. Send nothing and get nothing in return.
This past summer I attended the International High Energy Physics Conference at U.C. Berkeley, where the physicists were talking in excited tones about their latest theory of the universe, the Superstring Theory. They are hoping that this theory will turn out to be the T.O.E., the Theory of Everything, and that superstrings will tie it all together, so to speak.
In the Superstring Theory the fundamental building blocks of matter and energy are not particles or points, but infinitesimal strings. These strings are all the same, but as they vibrate in different patterns they manifest in the world as different particles, such as quarks, electrons or photons. If the theory is right it means that all matter is made up of these same little strings and, as we used to say in the ’60s, “Everything is everything.” In order to distinguish one thing from another, all you have to do is “check out the vibes.”
The Superstring Theory says that we have a ten-dimensional universe—nine dimensions of space and one dimension of time—and it describes that universe not on an atomic scale but on what is known as the Planck scale, which is roughly ten trillion trillion times smaller. According to the scientists, as the universe expanded after the Big Bang only three of the spatial dimensions expanded along with it. The other six remain curled up and hidden, in tight geometries 10–33 centimeters across. Maybe it is lucky that we can only see three spatial dimensions. It might be much more difficult to find your car keys or keep your weight down if there were six more dimensions to deal with.
Even though the Superstring Theory may prove to be the Theory of Everything, there is still a fundamental mystery: Who is pulling the strings? When I asked this question of some physicists at the conference they replied that it was not their concern and that I should try the Department of Religion. There, of course, they referred me to G–D and told me it was simply a matter of belief. I guess there are still some loose ends.
During my conversation with composer John Cage, he told me that he would like to live longer “just to see what will happen.” Personally, I would like to live until at least the year 2000. Not only will it be the end of the century, it will also be the millennium, marking the end of a thousand years of history. Just imagine all the great magazine and television specials! There will be the miniseries The Century in Review, and the maxi-series The Millennium: A Long Look Back. In the year 2000 there will be so much history to cover that the documentaries will have to be broken down into categories, such as Exploration: From Leif Erikson to Neil Armstrong. (Erikson supposedly discovered America in the year 1000 A.D.) There might be a political documentary titled One Thousand Years of Leadership: From Henry the Quarrelsome of Bavaria to Ronald the Great Communicator of America. No doubt there are many such historical reviews being prepared, and for good reason. The year 2000 is a watershed year; it is a time for deep human reflection and assessment, resolution and prediction. It should also be the wildest New Year’s Eve party ever experienced on this planet.
The year 2000 is an auspiciously round number. Many fundamentalists are probably looking for apocalyptic passages in their holy books and proclaiming the end of days, the return to this or that messiah, the coming of the Dark Ages or the Golden Age. The last time there was a millennium, there was widespread fear of the End of the World and the Last Judgment. Also in that year, 1000 A.D., the Chinese perfected their invention of gunpowder. Lately I have noticed that the antinuclear movement is beginning to call for an end to the nuclear arms race by the year 2000. It is a target date with special psychological impact.
It seems as if time stood still for the first 900 years of this millennium when compared to the enormous and revolutionary changes that have taken place in just this century. In 1900 there were virtually no paved roads in North America and not one parking lot. The Wright brothers didn’t make their first airplane flight until 1903. In 1900 we had not yet discovered that there were millions of other galaxies full of billions of other stars, a major shift in our perspective of ourselves in the universe. In 1900 nobody could have imagined Los Angeles.
It was in the year 1900 that Max Planck first formulated his quantum theory, and Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams. Einstein didn’t get his relativity theory worked out until 1905. In 1900 we didn’t have birth control pills or genetic engineering or even ziplock bags. In the year 1900, the scientist R. A. Fessenden first transmitted human speech via radio waves, and the first magnetic recording of sound was made. At the turn of the century nobody would have believed that satellite television would be in operation only 80 years later. In 1900, not one person believed in rock and roll.
Back in 1900 nobody would have considered possible the total destruction of the planet’s rainforests, or the heating up of the world’s atmosphere due to human pollution, or an atomic bomb that could destroy all the life on earth. Alfred Nobel didn’t invent dynamite until 1866. We’ve come a long way, baby, and we got here fast.
The inventions and discoveries of the twentieth century have changed our living habits, our morality and our belief systems in ways that we have yet to understand or assimilate. Many of our former ideas about who we are and why we are and where we are have dissolved as our lives approach the speed of light. Considering the radical changes that have taken place so far this century, it is little wonder that we are feeling somewhat lost and insecure. Due to the rapid rate of change, it seems as though we live through many lifetimes in this one life, and many different cultural eras and civilizations as well.
Unfortunately, as we approach the millennium, it seems that our collective consciousness and our collective conscience are not keeping up with the increase in our knowledge and technological ability. We may have come a long way since the year 1900 but whether or not we have made any progress is doubtful. In any case, I hope we all make it to the year 2000 just to have that long perspective back and that assessment of life and history which will certainly take place on such a momentous date. Who knows, maybe a new Buddha will appear to herald an era of peace and compassion. I would like to be there, just to see what will happen.