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Is matter just ‘a big fat lie?’

Written By | May 4, 2015

PETALUMA, Calif., May 4, 2015 – “Why doesn’t your butt fall through the chair?”

That may sound like a silly question. But if you were to take a stroll through the mind of astrophysicist Adam Frank – the man who asked the question – you might think otherwise.

“Consider, for a moment, the chair your butt is resting on right now,” writes Frank in a recent column. “It’s made of a squillion atoms right? And since it’s a solid, all those chair atoms are packed tightly together like a vast collection of marbles in a box, right? And it’s all those tightly packed atoms/marbles that are holding your butt in the chair against the force of gravity, right?

“Well, actually, no. There is a tiny problem with the whole atoms-as-marbles picture. It’s entirely wrong.”

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According to Frank, a more helpful analogy would be to imagine the two components of an atom – the nucleus and its associated electrons – on a scale we can all relate to. “If the nucleus were a beach ball in midtown Manhattan,” he continues, “the electron would be living in an apartment in Philly.”

Translated: The atoms that make up your chair are mostly empty space, meaning that the notion of “solid matter” is, in Frank’s words, “a big fat lie.”

So what keeps your butt from falling through the chair? That depends.

Most would agree that “It’s all just forces,” as Frank contends in his article. But when it comes to the particular nature of these forces, the jury is still out.

“Human knowledge calls them forces of matter,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, “but divine Science declares that they belong wholly to divine Mind [God], are inherent in this Mind, and so restores them to their rightful home and classification.” Were these forces to be withdrawn, she says, “creation” – including your chair – “must collapse.”

Could it be, then, that it’s not just the notion of solid matter, but matter itself that’s “a big fat lie?”

That might be a bit much to swallow. But what if we were to look at matter, as did Eddy, not so much as an irrefutable “thing” as a perspective subject to change, a limited view of reality? What difference might such a mental shift have on our perception of the universe – of planets and stars, our bodies and chairs, even the substance of our health?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, maybe a better question to ask is what difference such a shift is already having.

Some years ago the daughter of a good friend of mine was hit by a car and injured her arm. X-rays at a nearby clinic revealed multiple fractures in her forearm, wrist and hand. Due to extenuating circumstances, an appointment was made to have the arm operated on in five days.

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During this interval, a complete healing took place as both mother and daughter endeavored to put less faith in matter – that is, in a limited view of reality – and more in the unbroken spiritual reality they knew in their hearts and through their prayers to be true.

“When [my daughter] was subsequently examined by the clinic doctor, he said she clearly did not need to have bones set or the arm placed in a cast,” writes my friend in a published account. “When [a] second set of X-rays was taken, I watched him examine the ‘before and after’ pictures. He showed me each of the breaks in the previous X-ray: including forearm fractures, telescoping of bones in fingers and hand bones, and the shattered wristbone, which he said could not have been set medically and would have been replaced with a steel pin. Finally he commented: ‘The bones have set themselves perfectly. This is a case of a perfect mend.’”

While just this one story may not prove that matter is “a big fat lie,” it does call into question the credibility of so many matter-based assumptions. Even if we can’t get our head around why our butt isn’t falling through the chair, we’re all capable of gaining at least a glimpse of our essentially and solidly spiritual nature – and seeing practical results.

Eric Nelson writes each week on the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Read similar columns on his website and follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.


Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson’s column “Consciousness and Health” has appeared on a number of national media websites including The Washington Times, The Washington Post, KevinMD, The Houston Chronicle and American Public Media's "On Being” blog. Eric also serves as the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Northern California, enjoys road biking, and is more than happy to chat with anyone, anytime, about baseball.