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“I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” – Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author. He placed an estimated ten million words on paper and had an abiding interest in alchemy; in particular, the philosopher's stone (a material believed to turn base metals into gold). I would personally like to express my gratitude to him for inventing the first practical reflecting telescope which I used most evenings when I was in the sixth grade to record the changing positions of the moons of Mars and Jupiter.

Interestingly, while Sir Isaac spent most of his adulthood investigating the physical laws of science, he saw what he termed ‘the Divine’ in the universe’s workings. And while he was considered by many in the official church of the time to be a heretic, he definitely viewed the world through both a scientific and Christian lens.

The real reason I’m bringing him up is that I thought I would explore how his third law of motion might apply to how we are experiencing these times of corona-upheaval. Newton's third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” - Newton

Muddling along…everything that happens to us both in our immediate environment and elsewhere causes us to have an initial emotional response. The concept of the ten worlds or conditions of life codifies the way we react, for instance, to news about COVID-19, to help us understand what we need to focus on to improve ourselves. It was first postulated by the Chinese Buddhist scholar, T’ien-t’ai in the sixth century. Very simply put, these ten are: hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility, rapture, learning, realization, bodhisattva and Buddhahood (or enlightenment). Watch this five-minute video if you’d like an overview of the ten worlds.
Basically, if we are predominantly trapped in the same pattern of responding to our circumstances in one or more of the lower four or six conditions, then we can’t really expect to experience anything approaching lasting happiness (beyond the fleeting fulfillment of our immediate desires).

Fortunately, each condition mutually possesses the potential of the others. So, someone in a place like prison (hell) can decide to take college courses (learning).

The tenth world of Buddhahood doesn't exist by itself. Instead, we can manifest this wisdom, courage and compassion in our daily life within in any of the other nine. Not sometime after we die but right now.

It’s crucial that we learn how to bring out these higher conditions and create value in the midst of even our harshest corona-realities. Of course, this isn’t easy. An hour after writing this article, something on the news about the pandemic made me angry. Which reminded me yet again, that self-improvement, which also involves being of service to others, is a daily, not weekly or monthly practice.

I meant to leave you with this thought of Newton’s: “Nothing can be divided into more parts than it can possibly be constituted of.” But, it gave me a headache.

So, thanks for reading and keep staying safe out there!

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