What is Zen?
What is an elementary particle? The Greeks called them atoms - the smallest possible piece of stuff that cannot be divided further. After several millennia we haven't yet found anything that can't be divided, but we are still trying, the latest candidate being little vibrating strings, A couple of things are becoming very clear: the smaller we go, the more connected things seem to be; the idea that everything is part of some universal "field of force" seems increasingly fundamental. There is an excellent book on the subject.
Reality, it seems, isn't easy to cut up into little pieces. Everything has a habit of interacting with everything else. Just by trying to observe something it appears we change it. So our familiar, predictable solid world is made up of a lot of unpredictable, unfamiliar things for which the word "solid" is utterly meaningless. Taking it all as a whole we can understand well enough to get by. Analyse each part separately and we become overwhelmed with an unfamiliar complexity.
In archery, if you think of "bow" and "arrow" and "target" as separate things to be considered independently, you will fail. Try running down stairs while analysing the actions of the various muscles in each leg. Some things can be "understood" by a different process. You can feel the music of Chopin without trying to hear independently every note. Some things you "feel" rather than "know" but our culture has steadily given "knowledge" more importance than "feeling". Searching for the elementary particles of a symphony will not discover the location of the note that generates such emotions.
Particle physics is something that is neither accessible nor interesting to the vast majority of people. It's a bit like mathematics - a mysterious incomprehensible art practised by some rather strange people. As a matter of fact mathematics is neither incomprehensible nor mysterious and nor is particle physics, given a good teacher and a young pupil, but I am not going to delve into it, so relax.At the left of this page I have provided a few links to enable you to pursue further this aspect of Zen. They will open in a separate window so that you do not lose this present page, and you will be able to continue to my next topic - Zen and Consciousness.