The Dao, Buddha, and Quatum Mechanics

I came across a great video by Shantena Augusto Sabbadini in which he makes a link between the Dao De Jing’s ( or Tao Te Ching)  view of the universe and the behavior of particles in quantum mechanics.

The video really speaks for itself, but I’m going to highlight a few of the interesting points and share my thoughts with how it relates to antifragility.

If you’re unfamiliar with the quantum mechanics and particularly the Double Slit Experiment, here are a few good, easy to understand summaries (and if you’re not familiar with it, prepare to have your mind blown!)

Original Double Slit Experiment

Double Slit with Quantum Eraser / Delayed Choice

Another good one here.

Here are the main points from Sabbini’s video:

Quantum mechanics tells us that all of the particles in the universe are made up of probability waves and are not “real” in the sense that they always exist in a tangible form in specific place.  Things only become real when measured/observed/sensed by a conscious observer.

This is why we experience the world the way we do — as real tangible objects — because we experience the universe from within a body, and a body gets it’s inputs though its senses of sight, hearing, touching, etc.  In other words, a body is sensing device.  It makes observations.  Hence, this is our only way of experiencing life.

Chapter 1 of Dao De Jing

Amazingly, the Dao De Jing tells us the same story in it’s first chapter:

The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

And so, always eliminate desires to observe its mysteries
Always have desires to observe its  manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders


All our talk about reality is not reality.  We can never fully describe it.  It is just a map.  (The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao)

Post Modern thinking says that even though we may not be able to fully describe the “real” reality and we say that maybe for humans maybe it’s all about how our thinking creates our own reality within our heads.  We have analyze, talk, measure, analyze and talk some more.
The Dao tells us to go the other way.  Stop talking and just experience reality.  I like this.  Just live in the moment.  This is what Buddha tells us, as well as more modern authors such as Elkhart Tolle and Micheal Singer.  To use a modern example, many of us are so busy tweeting, posting Fascebook updates and uploading photos of every moment of our lives to Snapchat and Instagram that we’re barely even experiencing life as it happens.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.  The Dao also tells us that when you name things, it creates a split between subject and object.  It creates the “myriad things” and also creates desire.  Desire ( or hatred) for objects, puts meaning on them and so gives meaning to life.  This naming and desire leads to suffering.  This is also one of the four noble truths of Buddhism.
Sabbadini  goes on to remind us that scientifically speaking, there are no separate objects in the universe — only fields interacting in space-time., just as a wave is not really a separate object from the ocean. Only in name is it different.  If you are a wave and identify with your separateness, you are bound to suffer because a wave will eventually be dissolved into the ocean.  It never really was separate.
So with desire you experience the boundaries — but notice Lao Tzu does not say this is necessarily bad.  With naming, desires and passion, you experience what it means to be alive in our world.  The joys, the struggle, the pain, anxiety, fear, love, fulfillment, and achievement.
He does not say anything about trying to take yourself out of the world (where else could you go?).    Having these two things together (and I think learning how use and experience each one of these together) is the wonder of all wonders, the secret of all secrets and the gate of all mysteries.
Now — what does all this tell us about living an antifragile life?  Plenty, in my opinion.   I see the verses of the Dao De Jing as tools or patterns that you can apply to your life.  When things are bad ( or anytime), you can remember that you don’t have to be attached to your thoughts.  We are all one.  You don’t have to let other people or emotions get the best of you and drive your life.  (Desireless!).  On the other hand, sometimes experiencing the full range of emotions is what makes us human and gives meaning to life. So we have to let is pass through us.
Certainly, when something good happens, it feels nice to embrace it,  celebrate it and experience it fully.  That’s fun right?  To me, that’s exposing yourself to good things but having limited exposure (notice I didn’t say no exposure) to the bad things.  The bad times come and go.  You know that’s a part of being human. You acknowledge them, experience them, even though it doesn’t feel good, but then are able to let them go.  The are bumps in the road… small setbacks… small losses.




Seneca’s Letter VI or Why I Write This Blog

Recently, I had several happy experiences relating to advice I’ve given to other people.  The first was in a meeting on the topic of self development and  I shared my experience creating a “nurturing list” in which you list things that bring you joy,  so that it times of anxiety, fear, or depression you can look at this list and “remember” what things bring you joy and then go do one or more of them.  As I was describing this, I saw several heads nodding.  After the meeting, I had several people come up and thank me for this nugget of information.  That felt nice.

Another experience occurred while talking with a friend who was going through a divorce. She was very stressed about going to meetings full of of lawyers and uncomfortable negotiations.  Understandably, she felt some intimidation and anxiety from this impending situation for which she had no experience.  “Have you ever hear of Amy Cuddy and her TED talk on Power Poses?”, I asked her. She told me she hadn’t, but watched it right before her meeting and told me she felt much more in control and at ease.  Who knows what that one ripple effect may have caused in the universe.  Her kids and their kids my be better off for it.

These are small things in grand scheme of the life, but I like to think they have positive after effects, and it satisfies me greatly to know that I’m playing my part and not holding on to this things for myself.


I have 40 plus years of knowledge that I have taken in,  thought about, analyzed,  and stored away.  As I get older I occasionally use those memories and apply them and/or add additional meaning to them because I’ve learned something else that applies to it in a different context.  The cycle then repeats with the overall wisdom increasing each year as I learn more and have more experiences.  This is the beauty of aging, if you’re living right, and I suspect is why in general, older people report being the happiest .  For all things that are a drag about aging, I’m finding that the wisdom that comes it is ultra gratifying and special –and (almost) makes up for the loss of the physical.

And while this knowledge does me a lot of good in dealing with all aspects of life including career, financial, nutritional,  and especially emotional health, it’s ultimately unsatisfying if I don’t share it with others.  I think it gives me even greater pleasure getting positive feedback from people I’ve passed along knowledge to than actually using it myself.  Maybe some of it is my own ego gratification ( look how smart I am!), but I’d like to think much of it is stems from an innate human drive to help others — and that can’t be all bad can it?

In Letter VI of Seneca’s Letter’s From a Stoic, written 2000 years ago he had similar thoughts that he shared with his friend Lucilius:

And when you say: “Give me also a share in these gifts which you have found so helpful,” I reply that I am anxious to heap all these privileges upon you, and that I am glad to learn in order that I may teach. Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself. And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.


In that spirit, I want to share some of my favorite authors of self development content  — whether it’s from books, blogs, or podcasts — along with a very quick synopsis of why I it was life changing for me.  Reading or listening to any one of these will be make you a bit more antifragile, but they all have something unique and valuable to say.  I recommend all of them highly.

Nasim Taleb —   The reason I started this blog.  His most famous book is the Black Swan, but the game changer for me was Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, which asserts that things can actually get better from chaos and stress.  I apply these ideas to people in this blog.

Micheal Singer —  You are not your thoughts.  You can observe you thoughts and act on them, if you choose, but you don’t have to fixate on them and let them rule your life.   The Untethered Soul is most famous book. But I love this talk he gave at at a university.  Hearing these ideas in his own voice is most effective. I’ve watched it three times.

Seneca Letters From A Stoic.  Awesome, concise advice contained in a series of letters written 2000 years ago.  Just having the historical record is incredibly cool.  But getting into the mind of one of histories greatest mentors superb.  The advice is timeless and although coming from the heart of Western Civilization, I find it compliments Eastern philosophy very well.  This is one of things that makes it so powerful.

Lao Tzu — I  just started reading the Dao De Jing ( or Tao Te Ching) and am really liking it.  I feel very calm and centered after reading these very short and simple, but powerful tidbits of wisdom.  Yin and Yang….

James Altucher —  James’ honesty is addicting and he always interviews excellent guests in his podcasts. It’s where I heard of several of these on this list.

Sally Hogshead – How to Fascinate.  She opened my mind to the very simple idea that it was okay to be myself as it applied  to my career — and not to try to conform to what I thought my job description should be.  She advises accentuating the things that make you unique and play to your strengths (and stop trying to play to your weaknesses).  When you do this, you will start to “fascinate”.

Jack Canfield — I love this book because it’s divided up in 60 some chapters of great ideas on how to my more successful and happy.  He’s collected all of these ideas and put it into a reference book on success.   You can jump in and out as you please.  It’s another one that I’ve read or listened to several times.