Do We have to DO Something To be Ourselves?

I was watching the television program Nova on PBS (Absolute Zero) last night and they were taking about a phenomenon called a "Bose-Einstein condensate" Listening to the behaviour of particles and knowing that nature is generally shows what is called "self-similarity" (think of the repeating patterns of's a wonderful animated example of self-similarity), I wondered if this idea of a Bose-Einstein condensate could apply to the human level as well. The principle of self-similarity means that you see repeating patterns at different levels as you zoom in and out So I played a bit...

Let's start by talking about what a Bose-Einstein condensate actually is --

When particles are cooled enough, they go from being very active (gas) to less so (liquid) to even less active (solids).

But then there is a transformation that happens at even lower temperatures/less active - the particles start to "lose their individuality" and start acting as if they were everywhere at once rather than as separate particles.

What would happen if this applied to us?

So I wondered if there is some parallel with ourselves. Is it our *actions* that give us a sense of ourselves as individuals?

This makes some sense when we think of people who are depressed - getting physically active and taking action are consistently effective treatments for depression.

And it's interesting to consider deep meditations where individuals lose their sense of "separateness" and gain a sense of unity where they are All. An amazing experience, but not a place where they can contribute to society and play their role in the world.

Bose-Einstein condensates don't happen in nature - they are artificial creations. And isn't that true of meditation as well? Meditators practice long hours to learn to "slow their thoughts down", to "stop them".

What that says to me is that although we might find the experience of being a "condensate" to be enlightening and to give us a perspective we won't find in any other way, our "natural" state is one of activity - of discovering who *we* are by engaging in activity that's meaningful to us and contributes to the whole without losing ourselves in it.

Does that feel right to you? When do you feel most connected to yourself and most able to "find" yourself as an individual?

To read more about how chaos, fractals, and other findings of nonlinear physics might apply to our lives, try this fabulous book for the non-specialist:

in Canada:        in the U.S.: