Fractals, Bibimbap and the Nature of Reality
New Copernicans intuit that reality is spherical. They also sense that life is best lived in harmony with the nature of reality. Exploring the building blocks to reality is an exciting aspect of our ongoing spiritual and life pilgrimages.
Fractals are clearly one of these building blocks. In nature, fractals are never ending patterns that repeat at different scales. This property is called “self-similarity.” A fractal provides maximum simplicity with maximum complexity. Fractal patterns are found all through nature from tree branches, lightening strikes, leaves, neurons in the brain, to snowflakes. I first learned about fractals when discussing computer chip design.
Complementarity is another one of those intrinsic patterns of nature. Here beauty stems from the harmonious mixing of opposites. In the Taoist tradition the goal is to create wu wei or effortless action that combines compassion, frugality, and humility. Most New Copernicans would not know the roots of this 4th century BC philosophy, but it would resonate with their contemporary sensibilities. In contrast to linear Western thinking fueled by the Enlightenment, they are naturally attracted to the Eastern emphasis on balance and mutuality. This is best depicted in the Taoist concept of yin yang, hence the prominent red and blue taegeuk in the Korean flag. It is understood that yin and yang are forces that are both opposing and complementary; together they govern the universe. Complementarity like fractals is one of the building blocks of reality. This is to affirm the Trinitarian dance of reality.
I grew up in a small city in the southwest corner of Korea. The location of my Korean hometown was in the rural breadbasket, culturally speaking the American equivalent of Mississippi or Alabama. I speak Korean with a “country-persons” accent. But my hometown is also the birthplace of one of Korea’s best known and iconic dishes, “Jeonju Bibimbap.” Literally, bibimbap means “mixed rice.” This is a farmer’s cuisine that is aligned with nature and the Taoist vision of reality. At its best it is a careful balance of colors and ingredients, flavors and heat. Over thirty ingredients are mixed to create a harmonious deliciousness stemming from balancing the five tastes: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty.
A Korean meal is not linear (appetizer, salad, main course, desert). Rather it is a vast conversation of flavors (represented by a host of side dishes, banchan) that is then eaten in a communal fashion with all the dishes being shared by those at the table. Community and balance are the goal. At a Korean table one never pours water or tea for oneself, but only for the other person. There is the expectation of communal reciprocity. Food scholars summarize Korean cuisine into five categories: “foods that show the aesthetics of harmonization and convergence, foods that show the aesthetics of waiting and patience, foods that show the aesthetics of caring, and foods that show the aesthetics of beauty with various colors, and foods that show the aesthetics of refinement.”
It is for this reason that the symbol of the New Copernican Conversations is of a coffee cup filled with the yin yang symbol. This is a communal conversation about the nature of reality and how we can align ourselves to the patterns of human flourishing. It assumes that I will need you if this dynamic is to be successfully achieved—opposites blending in harmonious deliciousness.