Oprah Winfrey talks with Dr. Alan Lightman, an MIT professor of humanities, physicist and best-selling author. Dr. Lightman is one of the rare scientists who also embraces spirituality, after having a transcendent experience while on a boat on the ocean. He discusses why he believes the COVID-19 pandemic offers us an opportunity to lead a less hurried life. He shares why stillness is so important to our daily lives and explains how our country now has a chance to nurture what he calls its “inner self.” Dr. Lightman also discusses his article “The Virus Is a Reminder of Something Lost Long Ago,” published in The Atlantic.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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no charge better help. Is it true we affordable option and listeners, ten percent off your first month with the discount code, super superstar, that's better h the owl p dot com slashed super saw talk to it. There test on line and get help? I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the pod cast. I believe that one of the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starkness right now so doktor, like men, Doktor Alan Light, my nice to meet you here remotely fashion.
Did opera thanks for joining us, for this call to unite and also on supersede conversations from the moment. I read that article that you wrote in the Atlantic recently title the virus is a reminder of something loss. Long ago, perfect title my say I was so moved by your words: I've been wanting to talk with you about it, so I'm glad we had this opportunity so before we get started, I just want to introduce you all to tell you who doktor like men is easy. Physics is also a humanity's professor at MIT you're known as one of the few scientists who is also a best selling writer of novels and one who embraces spirituality. That's what got me attention. A scientist who embraces spirituality sounds like to me: you're, a renaissance man for a time such as this world, a world
gotten more and more and our disciplinary, so we need people that can cross disciplines and talk to each other. So before we talk about that article in the atlantic- and I was just sharing with you before we started that the Atlantic is doing a great job on cold it I mean, I think their articles. Is you there Oh non partisan, you, you spill the truth, and I wanted to ask you about an experience that you wrote about in one of your books call searching for the stars on an island in Maine, so you're on a boat at night on the ocean when you had a transformative. Almost and sending experience share that with our audience will you, while I was come, back to an island late at night it was after midnight and the clear night
and there was no one out on the water, and I turned off the engine of the boat and got even quieter and then turn off the running lights of the boat in a got even darker and I laid down in the boat and just looked up at the sky, and is this you Jesse just me just me on about
After midnight I lay down in the boat and looked up at the at the sky, and I felt like I was falling into infinity. I felt like I was emerging with the stars and not only with the stars. I felt like I was merging with the cosmos was an incredible feeling I felt like. I was part of something larger than myself, and I I've been up scientist all of my life and but I realize it later that that was a an experience. It was really not reducible by the methods of science.
Feeling that I had to have been connected to something big, because science is always out to prove a thing and you're saying that just the experience itself for you and anyone else who has that experience? That is proof enough that the authority lies in the experience itself. No, no one can the gate experience.
You have that's pretty amazing, coming from a scientist, so we're living in a world now, at a time where scientific facts, as we can tell from every news organization, are more important than ever for our broke from all the information that we're getting we're living in a time where scientific fact is so important. But you say that there is actually room for us to understand that there is an invisible and, as we just said, unprofitable, but real connection between all living things in the universe. Can you explain a little bit more about that? Well, I'd like to distinguish between the physical universe, which is the subject of science and what went on my call, the spiritual universe and by the spiritual universe. I mean the collection of all those experience that we have or were
Tied to something larger than ourselves, I'm not talking about organ ass religion. On talking about this very vital personal experience like the one I had lying in the boat and main looking impetus stars were, we feel connected to things bigger than ourselves, and those are two domains that the scientific and the spiritual age had their own region of validity. Up. Questions like how old is the earth or what is the cause of climate change? Those lie in the physical realm and there are the the realm of science, but there are other human experience that we have like the one we describe lying in the boat. Looking at the stars that there are not reducible by science and never part of some other world, some other existence. I think that's one of the things that connects us speed
Well, you know it's interesting what you described in the boat. I had an experience like that in two thousand and six I was walking along a road in Maui in an area where the cloud to come down and it was like we were walking through the clouds you could see only through the cloud, just a sliver of a of the moon and it looked like the moon and my friend said all that looks like the dream works moon. You could put a boy up there with the fishing pole and you could just see the slip of the moon and Israel walking it became. So still that I tell you just thinking about makes my eyes water. It became so still that I felt that thing that you're talking about in the boat, where I felt a connection
between all time all live. All speeches felt I felt expanded. I felt like I felt like I was a part of the clouds, so that's it out and then you're talking about it s the same thing and I think many young, I think all of us have had experiences like this one of the aspects of experience, you're describing and imagine you fell to his is you you lose track of your body. You lose track of your ego. You lose track.
Of yourself. You lose track of time. It's a beautiful experience. What is a doctor light? When? Is it just a glimpse? That's just a glimpse of what it at what is right. That's a glimpse at the full present moment that we speak. So much of this is a tiny little glimpse. Yes, please call me Alan. Yes, that's ok, Alan that now that we're talking about transit and experiences, we should lapse as a glimpse of something, and course we don't know what that larger thing is. Einstein said some one asked him whether he was a spiritual person or believe or something, and he said I feel like we are children going into a laboratory and we see a lot of books in the library written in different languages, and we don't. We can't read the books, but we know that
somehow they got there that that something produce those books yeah. You know I'm thinking that this pandemic, I think of it as a massive reset for the world, and I know that you believe that we have a chance to choose a less hurried life. Now you wrote about that in the Atlantic article and you write that we ve been living too fast? We have sold our inner cells to the devil of speed efficiency, money, hyper connectivity. Progress. I know you are a whole book on this topic. Call in praise of wasting time, but this time that we have right now. Do you think that this is a perfect time to be reset and to do What we're talking about be more united yeah. Well, I think there is a silver lining to the the virus at men. Of course, when you say that you have to first acknowledge the tremendous human suffering this going on
The waves of people who don't even have clean water to wash their hands so bright and millions of people who have lost their jobs, people have lost their jobs and and and and and we need to celebrate the that health care workers and the people working in an grocery stores that are keeping everything going. You know what this time has done. It has allowed us to see that the people who you for for many people overlooked- and thirdly, it we're just a part of Europe daily life. How necessary everyone? Is your life to be live comfortably and wealth? Yes, yes, it gives us a greater appreciation of the another, invisible people that make our lives run, but I think that that there might be one or two silver linings to this devastation, and one of them is that it is forcing many of us to slow down.
Of course you have to have a certain amount of privilege to be able to slow down, but I hope that we can then become conscious of of the frenzy of our normal lifestyle. Were most of this run around checking of items on our to do less being connected to the grid. Twenty four seven everything is scheduled up and we we haven't had the time to think about who we are to reflect on. What's important to us to be quiet and still- and I believe that one of the possible benefits of this period were going through, now. Is that its forcing some of us to slow down to slow down and to take a look at it to do so? introspection actually to do some introspection, which we do to love love with
we we ve, been running around, not thinking about what our values are, and that takes quiet time to do. That Like slide what you wrote about being locked down, you said, by forcing many of us to slow down to spend more time in personal reflection. Away from the noise and the heave of the world without quiet time, more. Privacy more stillness. We have an opportunity to think about who we are ass, individuals and as a society. You know both the the moment that you described in the boat. The moment that I was talking about walking on the road in Maui both came out of stillness. That's what I remember about that time is that it was so still
I felt I was the stillness. The stillness was in me and we were like all one, and so I think this opportunity to be still you're onto something while the pace of life is been increasing since, since the industrial revolution- and some of it has been invisible, the technological advances and economic prosperity of all time, increasing the pace of life and we just sort of gone along with the wave of prosperity and technology and not realise that we have lost these moments of stillness with lost the silences. The privacy is the moments that you had in the cloud the moment that I had in the boat, but I am hoping that that that, in this period now, where were a lot of us are forced to slow down there, we can develop a new habit of mind, a new way of being in
RO, a recognition of the importance of slowing down of stillness, because you say that each of us, this is a time for interest introspection for us as individuals. Each of us has our own inner life. Of course, we all know that, but use our nation also has an inner self. I've always felt this is well, and I then any thousands of people in over the years, and I felt it underneath people's individual lives, of course, an individual decisions. There is a collective decision, a collective consciousness is that what you're talking about Yes, I think so. For me, my aunt herself self is is the part of me that imagines that dreams,
thanks about who I am and what's important to me, and if you think of our whole country, America is a person with an inner self. Does it recognize that it has an inner self? Is it giving itself the stillness and the quiet to think about who America is and what's important to America? I think that our inner self is our real freedom, and if America does not recognize its inner self, it doesn't have a real freedom, and if, if, if America doesn't have a real freedom, if it cannot listen to that quiet voice of his inner self, then how can it help other countries gain freedom? How can it be-
Part of the harmony of the group of nations hack and help bring peace if it doesn't recognise its own moments of stillness. Well, this unprecedented global event, the TIM Schreiber dreamed up. The call to unite is, of course, an ambitious one. And we know everyone is struggling to take care of their own health taking their own families, as you mentioned, just what it takes every day to stay present in what way Do you think it is now easier for us to be united while they kroner virus has involved the world in a way that, even though the two world wars of the twentyth century did not involve the entire world, its involving the entire world, and although there is a lot of inequality in the way that were experiencing the krona virus, I think there is a british writer Meng Damien BAR recently
said that were different boats, but were in the same storm and we are all participating experiencing the same storm now and in that unites us. In the last couple of months, the men are alot of beautiful acts, of of courage, of venture of goodwill. It's is everybody in the world is saying no we're not going to be defeated by the storm. Well, I think what you said at the beginning of the article in the Atlantic. The viruses or reminders something loss long ago is what we want to take away for this call to unite. You say.
In rebuilding a broken world. We will have the chance to choose a less hurried life. That's what I want as what I want to. Thank you so much. Thank you for your time. Thanks for being with us, like you, opera, I'm over Winfrey and you ve been listening to supersede conversations the pod cast. You can follow super soul on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. If you haven't yet go to apple pod, callous and subscribe rate and review of this plant can join me next week for another supersede conversation. Thank you for listening.
Transcript generated on 2020-05-06.