Friday, May 27, 2016

DotMagis: Imagine: Quantum mechanics meets the Spiritual Exercises

I arrived in Italy Wednesday, after 24 hours of travel, planes, trains, and two very short car rides.  There is something apt in this post about science and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola appearing at DotMagis yesterday, as I'm spending a short stretch of time at the Vatican Observatory (the one just outside Rome), where I am one of their newest adjunct scholars.  The Observatory is staffed by the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, the order of priests and brothers founded by St. Ignatius, seeking God in all things, in this case, in the heavens, both literally and figuratively.
"Imagine,” I say. Imagine that you are ascending a staircase, can you choose any height, or does gravity hold you to certain positions in space? Put yourselves into an atom, feel the tug of the other electrons and the nucleus wax and wane. Wend your way through five pages of math, and then tell me what color you think flamingos should be. “It helps,” says Sufi mystic Rabi’a in a poem about contemplation, “putting my hands on a pot, on a broom, in a wash pail.” It helps, I suspect, to think of flamingos when faced with equations... 
St. Ignatius might not recognize the traces of his Spiritual Exercises in my course, but each time I say to students, “Feel the forces,” and each time I encourage them to contemplate data that defies common sense, I hear for a moment the instructions of my director during the Exercises to put myself into the contemplations, to put flesh on the bones of the Gospel, and to dig for God with bare hands. For what I desire for my students, I suspect God desires for me as well: the courage to stand before the ineffable, to look and see the world as it is, and to wring the real from what in this moment I can only imagine."

Read the rest at DotMagis:  Imagine: A lesson from science class

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