Ahead of the game

I have just finished reading Carlo Rovelli’s book Reality Is Not What It Seems. It is a very impressive and exciting romp through physics from the ancient Greeks to the modern day in which he does a great job of clarifying complex topics. 

But one thing kept bugging me all the way through. Despite the fact that much of the book is about how everything around us is constantly changing, and that the minute particles of which the universe is constructed pervades everything, including us, there was no mention of the fact that Buddha sussed this out 2,500 years ago. 

Given how immersed I am in Buddhist philosophy and thinking these days it was interesting to read something so completely oriented to western philosophy and its Greek origins. It left me feeling frustrated and slightly dissatisfied satisfied with the book.

I was also listening to a podcast recently which referred to the experiment done a few years ago with a photograph of a dress where people vehemently disagreed about what colour the dress was. It turned out that our brains adjust colours for natural or artificial light and depending on whether you had spent most of your life in the open air or indoors, the dress is seen as one set of colours or another. 

Buddhist psychology taught that our experience of the world is “conditioned” by previous experience, our biology, and the norms of the society around us. Again something fundamental to the world that physics is “discovering”, that the Buddha sussed out 2,500 years ago.

5 thoughts on “Ahead of the game

  1. Good point. Our Western thought bubble encourages a suspicion of ideas outside it. How often do you hear about African philosophy? We have World Music but do we appreciate it only if it registers with our Western ears? Music we don’t like is relegated to anthropology. Have you read Baggini’s How the world thinks?

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    1. So true. I watched a Romesh Ranganathan travel doc in Africa where they were looking at ancient remains, clearly a sign of early civilisation, that we would never hear about.

      I met Julian once and haven’t been able to bring myself to read any of his books since 😉

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