“Smaller than a grain of rice is the Self….Yet……greater than all the words.”

In “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics”, we read theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli’s mind-bending line about “Nature….our home”

“This strange, multicoloured and astonishing world which we explore – where space is granular, time does not exist, and things are nowhere….”

From thousands of years ago, we hear a similar mind-bending thought from a sage about the nature of Reality (in the Chandogya Upanishad translated by Swami Prabhavananda, “The Upanishads: The Breath of the Eternal”):

“Smaller than a grain of rice is the Self; smaller than a grain of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a canary seed, yea, smaller even than the kernel of a canary seed.Yet again is that Self, within the lotus of my heart, greater than the earth, greater than the heavens, yea, greater than all the words.”

Evening skies, Coimbatore, India — the Bibliophile

Max Planck, the Physics Nobel Laureate credited as being one of the parents of Quantum Theory, writes in his 1932 book “Where is Science going?” of “the ultimate mystery of nature” — a mystery“we ourselves are part of….”, which “Science cannot solve….”

In the poem “Mysteries, Yes” (published in “Devotions”), Mary Oliver sings:

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

Peace 🙂


The Edge.org 2018 question, addressed to its eclectic group of over 200 scientists, artists, writers, technologists, and others, was: “Ask ‘The Last Question,’ your last question,the question for which you will be remembered.”

The Korean artist Koo Jeong’s submission, her Last Question, was: 

i = we ?

Koo Jeong’s, question, a work of art in itself, pushes us to what is probably the most primordial of investigations — Who am I? — a question, as Carlo Rovelli writes (in “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics”), about “one of the things which we understand least….”

After centuries of the quest to answer this question, Nature, Carlo writes, persists in

behaving with us like that elderly rabbi to whom two men went in order to settle a dispute. Having listened to the first, the rabbi says: “You are in the right.” The second insists on being heard. The rabbi listens to him and says: “You’re also right.” Having overheard from the next room, the rabbi’s wife then calls out, “But they can’t both be in the right!” The rabbi reflects and nods before concluding: “And you’re right too.”

The theoretical physicist then writes that “what we have learnt from our ever-increasing knowledge of the things of this world” tells us that “We are an integral part of nature; we are nature, in one of its innumerable and infinitely variable expressions”“we are made of the same stardust of which all things are made….”

In the Mundaka Upanishad (probably composed in 2 BC), we find an incredible response to the Edge.org question.

Saunaka, a seeker of wisdom, asks Angirasa (The Upanishads, translated by Juan Mascaro): “Master, what is that which, when known, all is known?”

 The answer to this question, it turns out, is also the answer to who am I?

Some time before the Mundaka Upanishad came into being, a deeply perplexed person, sat under a Bo Tree vowing not to get up till comprehension dawned. He too grappled with this question. And, like the sages of the Upanishads  he appears to have had a sublime realization —  i am my neighbour. We are the world. We are the cosmos — the cosmos is us.

Photo by Dulcey Limaon Unsplash

Some of us may not agree.

But, what is indisputable, as Carlo writes in “Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity” is that 

Today … we have the instruments to bring light to the homes of the ten billion human beings who will soon inhabit the planet, to travel in space toward other stars, or to destroy one another and devastate the planet. It depends on our choices…

We are surely better off living with the conviction that “i=we”, healing the world, and making this planet a heaven.

 Peace 🙂