The Dancing Wu Li Masters / Gary Zukav

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”  -Werner Heisenberg

At first glance, the book The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav may appear to be primarily written on the subject of physics. However, to classify it only as such would be doing it a disservice. It is through the medium of explaining the non-intuitive concepts of new physics (relativity and quantum mechanics), that Zukav brings awareness to our limited ability to perceive “reality” and accurately define it. The same mind shift that is necessary to allow for a better understanding of our universe in its entirety, is just as applicable when we apply it on the micro scale to our individual lives.


In life we are often quick to dismiss things that seem nonsensical. However, as Zukav states, this is often only because we lack the correct reference frame from which these events make sense.


The importance of nonsense hardly can be overstated. The more clearly we experience something as “nonsense,” the more clearly we are experiencing the boundaries of our own self-imposed cognitive structures. “Nonsense” is that which does not fit into the prearranged patterns which we have superimposed on reality. There is no such thing as “nonsense” apart from a judgmental intellect which calls it that.

True artist and true physicists know that nonsense is only that which, viewed from our present point of view, is unintelligible. Nonsense is nonsense only when we have not yet found that point of view from which it makes sense.


The longer we are exposed to only a single point of view or way of thinking, the harder it becomes to think differently about something.


A rational mind, based on the impressions that it receives from its limited perspective, forms structures which thereafter determine what it further will and will not accept freely. From that point on, regardless of how the real world actually operates, this rational mind, following its self-imposed rules, tries to superimpose on the real world its own version of what must be.

This continues until at long last a beginner’s mind cries out, “This is not right. What ‘must be’ is not happening. I have tried and tried to discover why this is so. I have stretched my imagination to the limit to preserve my belief in what ‘must be.’ The breaking point has come. Now I have no choice but to admit that the ‘must’ I have believed in does not come from the real world, but from my own head.”


Those who are the first to approach something from a new point of view or from a beginner’s mindset (a mind that is open to all possibilities and has not yet been self-indoctrinated into only following tradition), are then often attacked by those around them. This is because they challenge the world views which give others a sense of comfort and security.


The history of science in general often has been the story of scientists vigorously fighting an onslaught of new ideas. This is because it is difficult to relinquish the sense of security that comes from a long and rewarding acquaintance with a particular world view.


We also often hold on tightly to our own world views for reasons that are no longer valid.


The value of a physical theory depends upon its usefulness. In this sense the history of physical theories might be said to resemble the history of individual personality traits. Most of us respond to our environment with a collection of automatic responses that once brought desirable results, usually in childhood. Unfortunately, if the environment that produced these responses changes (we grow up) and the responses themselves do not adapt, they become counterproductive. Showing anger, becoming depressed, flattering, crying, and bullying behavior are response patterns appropriate to times often long in the past. These patterns change only when we are forced to realize that they are no longer productive. Even then change is often painful and slow. The same is true for scientific theories.


We can get stuck in a cyclical cycle where we filter our perception of the world in a way where we only take note of the things which support our desired beliefs.


“Reality” is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive depends upon what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.


This is why we must be careful to not restrain ourselves to explaining what we perceive (or automatically dismissing that of which we can’t immediately make sense) only in terms of our currently held system of beliefs. If we are to develop a better understand of our universe and our place in it, we must remain open to allowing new ways of thinking into our lives.

 The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav

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