Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Universe in a Single Atom, by HH The Dalai Lama

"The most important point is to ensure that science never becomes divorced from the basic human feeling of empathy with our fellow beings. Just as one's fingers can function only in relation to the palm, so scientists must remain aware of their connection to society at large. Science is vitally important, but it is only one finger of the hand of humanity...What matters above all is the motivation that governs the use of science and technology, in which ideally heart and mind are united." - The Dalai Lama

Welcome to the 2012 installment of "Olivia Reads Nonfiction Over the Summer and then Blogs About It." Unlike last year when it was all neuroscience, yesterday at the library I found The Universe in a Single Atom.

It's not about reconciling religion with science. The Dalai Lama does not find that terribly interesting. Instead, he operates under the assumption that they can be, and then gets on with his book. Instead of looking at Buddhism through a scientific lens, he looks at science through a Buddhist lens--how does science relate to things that Buddhism and those that practice it care about?

His tutors didn't bother with science when he was growing up, but in his teens he went on an Epic Quest (my words, not his) to learn, using his station to visit some of the greatest minds in their respective fields who were willing to spend a few days talking him through important concepts.

This book is kind of fantastic. It's well-written to the point that the mere act of reading is enjoyable, and contains all of the excitement and wonder that actual scientists got over a long time before they got published. His Holiness is incredibly humble--always stopping to praise his teachers and friends-- and even more genuine in his thoughts and curiosity. It makes me smile.

The religion vs. science rivalry is something I got over a long time ago, but it's still a dichotomy that I find interesting, so it's nice to look at both of them at an entirely different angle. It's not about science's place in Buddhism, or any other religion. It's about science's place in life, and in humanity-- why we should care about it, as well as why it can't and shouldn't be the center of everything.

I'm only about 30 pages in, but I love it to pieces. You should read it.

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