There is a Zen saying, “not two, not one”. This li’l phrase is one of the deeper teachings that I have come across in my life, and contemplating it has helped me to get clear at many junctures in my life.
My understanding of what it means is – the Northwest corner of an open plaza is clearly not the same thing as the Southeast corner. If you say to a friend, “I’ll meet you at the Northwest corner”, and there you are standing in the Southeast corner at the appointed time, you’ll deserve the bitching out that you’ll get. But where do you encounter the dividing line between one corner and the other, as you transverse from one to the other? Where does one corner “end”, and the other “begin”? The two corners of the plaza are clearly not separate, yet they are clearly not the same.
Similarly, it’s my impression that many theoretical physics departments have professors who are cross-posted with the applied physics department. Similarly, in the applied physics department, there are professors who are cross-posted with the physical chemistry department. And so it goes – physical chemistry with chemistry, chemistry with organic chemistry, o-chem with biochemistry, biochem with biology, biology with psychobiology/neurology, psychobiology/neurology with psychology, psychology with social psych, social psych with sociology, and sociology with poly sci. But I don’t think that doesn’t mean that the study of quarks and political theory are the same thing. They are ultimately fundamentally connected, and there is no clear dividing line between the two, but, realistically, we all know clear well that they are also two really different things.
One final example – the molecules on the outer edge of “you”, say the ones on the edge of the cell membranes of the cells that are on the outer edge of your eye, are just as enmeshed, electron-swapping-wise, with the molecules in the air around you as they are with the molecules further back in the cell wall. In other words, it is scientifically impossible to say where “you” end and “your environment” begins – from this perspective, it all seems to be one interconnected whole.
And Asian religion and modern physics both tell us that there ultimately is no dividing line between all phenomena and all other phenomena, that all of the trees, planets, oceans, people, bugs, nuclear reactors, people, BMWs, chicken mcnuggets, MC Hammer CDs, and all else in the universe are one unified vibrating energy field, are all equally an action of the same process of the whole of existence unfolding. And yet you wouldn’t say that a BMW is the same as a tree – there is a certain level at which it is, it’s all one universe happening, it’s all waves in the same endless ocean, but, more immediately, well, as I probably don’t need to tell you: one is a car, one is a plant.