Prior to this rather cruel conversation with Mom, I’d learned enough history to know that science had got it wrong, at least in part (and often totally and horrendously), repeatedly. So, in sixth grade I started looking around to see what mistake was currently “accepted truth.”
I knew the error was a tricky thing to find. It would be completely hidden by the certainty of society's beliefs. But I had my suspicions. I didn't trust at all the rule that forbade division by the number zero.
It seemed to me that of course you could at least try to divide “Something” by “Nothing.” It simply meant you were left with what you started with and that shouldn't be a problem. (I was in college before I learned that actually you get infinity if you divideby zero. Not that I understand this concept, but at least the operation is allowed and infinity is a very interesting result.) But anyway, I decided that if arithmetic had been left to me, I would have allowed it. And of course there would be consequences.
You could divide by nothing and not change anything. Or if you divided by one, or once, you would double the number that you started with. From this it became obvious that the entire division table we'd been taught was wrong. And thus, all the calculations in the world were wrong.
What really concerned me at this point were the calculations used in the construction of all the bridges. What if really they were all in error? And what if one day the engineers woke up to this fact? Would all the bridges then collapse? I assumed they must. And in my head I saw bloody disasters all across the country. Apparently by age 12, I totally assumed that to which I now give lip service: That our beliefs determine our reality and world.
Well, I never was any good with math. And my grades in college weren’t that great, because in my eagerness to Know, I enrolled in as many science classes as allowed. By my junior year I was taking graduate level courses, was unable to do the required calculus, and had a definite tendency to get off on some tangent that was never tested. It didn’t matter.
I was looking for what I seemed important and just beyond my grasp- some piece to the puzzle, some fact, something that would provide me entry into what my seventh grade science teacher had called, “The secret of life.” I could tell when I was getting close because my whole body came alive. Like the fact, discovered when I was 19, that mitochondria- the cellular organelles that carry out respiration for us- were actually the descendents of bacteria.
My God, the implications! It seemed too large to put in words. I was left trembling in my seat there in the lecture hall. Later, I found that Lewis Thomas expressed my feelings perfectly:
Finally, there is the whole question of my identity, and more than that, my human dignity. I did not mind it when I first learned of my descent from lower forms of life. I had in mind an arboreal family of beetle-browed, speechless, hairy sub-men, ape-like, and I've never objected to them as forebears. Indeed, being Welsh, I feel the better for it, having clearly risen above them in my time of evolution. It is a source of satisfaction to be part of the improvement of the species.
But not these things. I had never bargained on descent from single cells without nuclei. I could even make my peace with that, if it were all, but there is the additional humiliation that I have not, in a real sense, descended at all. I have brought them all along with me, or perhaps they have brought me.
It is no good standing on dignity in a situation like this, and better not to try. It is a mystery. There they are, moving about in my cytoplasm, breathing for my own flesh, but strangers. They are much less closely related to me than to each other and to the free-living bacteria out under the hill. They feel like strangers, but the thought comes that the same creatures, precisely the same, are out there in the cells of sea gulls and whales, and dune grass, and seaweed, and hermit crabs, and further inland in the leaves of the beech in my backyard and in the family of skunks beneath the back fence, and even in that fly on the window. Through them, I am connected; I have close relatives, once removed, all over the place. This is a new kind of information, for me, and I regret somewhat that I cannot be in closer touch with my mitochondria. If I concentrate, I can imagine that I feel them; they do not quite squirm, but there is, from time to time, a kind of tingle. I cannot help thinking that if only I knew more about them, and how they maintain our synchrony, I would have a new way to explain music to myself.
Yes. That was it exactly. Some truths that you discover take you far beyond your confines. And this was why last night, at the age of 56, I sat upon my bed sobbing as my heart broke open. It was the first time I had ever heard Adyashanti’s actual voice. And this is what he said:
Why are we here if not to know the Truth?
It’s good to know why we’re here, so you don’t waste your time.
What brings us together is the Truth.
Not the truth that can be put in words. That truth, that’s a false truth.
Not a truth we can think about. That’s a false truth.
Not a truth we own. That’s a false truth.
But the Truth of you, the Truth of me, the Truth that is Life itself.
The Truth of existence.
The Truth - besides which nothing else is actually true.
That’s what brings us here. That’s what being here is about.
…never settle for static truth. Never settle for anything less than something of the nature of a revelation, something that is entirely of your being, something that is not in any way separate from you, something that’s in no way separate from them.
And that is coming home after a lifetime of seeking.