“Science is not only a disciple of reason
but, also, one of romance and passion.”
— Stephen Hawking
Press play to hear an audio enhancement as you read.
In recent posts, we’ve been considering the field of quantum science. One researcher suggested that the traditional Newtonian model describing the universe as one big machine is giving way to a new concept, that the universe is actually more likely one big thought. What about emotion?
Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time, died this year. He was a controversial figure and the quote above indicates why. Imagine, to include the words “science, romance, and passion” in the same sentence!
Traditionally, science has been the domain of reason. Ironically, those scientists who most vigorously defend their views are invariably passionate about them! In fact, all of us are passionate about something. The question is, what and why?
The Summer of Love in 1967 stands out in history as a time in modern society when passions ran especially high. It was a global phenomenon that centered in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco where about 100,000 hippies converged to unify against government, consumer values, and war, and to share their shared passions for music, painting, poetry, and meditation.
Modern historians credit a gathering on January 14, 1967 at Golden Gate Park, known as the Human Be-In, for igniting the Summer of Love. This event is remembered for Timothy Leary’s public pronouncement of his instruction: “Tune in, turn on, drop out.”
Haight-Ashbury’s hippie newspaper, The San Francisco Oracle, reported on the event this way: “A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.” 1
It’s interesting to look back from 50 years in the future and reflect on this social phenomenon, particularly, to assess how successfully that vision has manifested, or not. It’s true that millions more people are meditating today and that great strides have been made towards improved social justice and more equality. At the same time, financial inequity is at an all-time high (similar to what it was during the era of the robber barons) and both racism and fascism seem to be resurfacing with a vengeance.
Perhaps it’s time to reboot the summer of love, incorporating lessons we’ve learned since then. Of course, that would contravene the well-known adage that the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history!
In this case, history tells us that the Beatles were wrong. “All you need is love” is a heartening sentiment but evidence proves we need more than love. What else do we need to achieve the lofty, idealistic goals of the sixties?
For an innovative answer, let’s return to science and that opening quote from Hawking. As he infers, there’s a way for reason, romance, and passion to be complementary, not oppositional. We might wonder what could have happened back in the sixties had reason not been excluded. After all, the phrase, “tune in, turn on, drop out” isn’t exactly steeped in reason! The romance and passion are there all right but that wasn’t enough to produce the change that was envisioned. We have proof of that, fifty years later.
Conversely, trading the Newtonian model of the universe as one big machine for a quantum perspective that it’s one big thought is a model without emotion. Why not include it all?
Today, for our own summer of love, 2018-style, let’s rework Leary’s statement. “Tune in, turn on, drop out” can become “Tune in, turn on, engage.” The type of engagement I’m thinking of is practical… to engage in our lives moment by moment by being vividly present and work together to improve society through that quality of unjudging attention.
Back in the sixties, many thousands of young people scorned business and government in favor of art and music. A counter culture developed, populated by those who had dropped out of mainstream culture. Imagine what society might be like today had the millions of talented, passionate souls who dropped out to form that counter culture focused their genius and commitment to create change from the inside, rather than fight against (or ignore) the status quo from the outside.
Maybe that’s a powerful lesson for us today. Perhaps we could initiate our own personal summer of love, with this in mind. It would mean making a commitment to the moment and marrying reason with passion, to bring our deepest values directly into the material world. Magic could happen!