Exploring Silicon Valley— by Peter Y. Chou

William Blake, Ancient of Days

William Blake, The Ancient of Days (1794)
hand colored etching for his poem “Europe”

The World in a Grain of Sand

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

— William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

I'm awed by Blake's prophecies, how every atom resembles electron cloud petals of a wildflower, orbiting worlds around a solar nectar, how scientists have transformed pebbles of sand to silicon wafers, bits and bytes in memory microchips opening vast worlds, nanoseconds of knowledge on computer windows at our fingertips. We are indeed fulfilling Blake's vision on the Internet— with infinity in our hand, the World Wide Web linking everybody together in a grain of sand. I'm amazed at Archimedes' reckoning of 10 to the 52nd power of sand particles similar to Einstein's atomic mass of the universe, at Leibniz's letter to Tsar Peter the Great, how he was inspired by yin & yang to invent the binary system, 0's & 1's for modern computers, how the I Ching's 64 hexagrams coincide with DNA's 64 genetic codons, and DNAS spelled backwards is SAND.

When I think of Silicon Valley, images of Stanford University, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Adobe Systems, Apple Computers, Sun Microsystems, and Netscape Communications come to mind. But as I explore further in the dictionary, I find "silicon" sandwiched between "silence" & "silk", valley between "valiant" & "valuable"— and suddenly I feel that I'm living in a special precious place, more mindscape than landscape. Within the symbolism of landscapes, the low-lying valley is considered to lie at sea level. Hence, it is symbolic of life itself, the abode for all creative endeavors. Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching VI (5th century BC):

The spirit of the valley never dies.
This is called the mysterious female.
The gateway of the mysterious female
Is called the root of heaven and earth.
Dimly visible, it seems as if it were there,
Yet use will never exhaust it.

The spirit of the valley that links heaven with earth is beautifully illustrated by Blake's The Ancient of Days, where God the Father appears as a Geometer, emerging out of the sun, a circle of fire (symbol of eternity) as he creates the world (temporality). His compass is at right angles of 90 degrees (square symbolizing earth), but also shaped like a "V"— the valley of mystery from which all creation flows. The quest of "squaring the circle," while not mathematically feasible is philosophically possible via alchemy— a spiritual transformation within our heart as we bring heaven (circle) to earth (square). Blake envisions in his poem "Europe":

My roots are brandish'd in the heavens, my fruits in earth beneath...
And who shall bind the infinite with an eternal band?...
Awake the thunders of the deep!...
Spread nets in every secret path...

With telecommunication and cable corporations fighting for bandwidth broadcasting rights on the Internet, we may ask along with Blake— "Who will find the band to bind the infinite?" Blake provides an answer when he tells us "Awake the thunders of the deep!" (Awaken the child-artist within our inner depth). When we have tapped into this spiritual reservoir within ourselves, we may share it with others on the World Wide Web, or in Blake's vision: "Spread nets in every secreth path." The Internet is a mindplace for spiritual communion and celebration. Lao Tzu says "The net of heaven is cast wide" (Tao Te Ching, LXXIII) and the word "inter" may be interpreted as "between terra" so that Internet is "between earth & heaven." This is the role of the artist and poet to bring beautiful images & songs to everyone.

The spiritual path may be compared to the long sojourn of Homer's Ulysses from Troy back home to Ithaca. The chemical symbol of silicon, Si, is also the Spanish word si for "yes"— a positive note which James Joyce climaxed his epic novel Ulysses. When I found that the word "silicon" is derived from the Latin, silex, flint, and that valley according to Lao Tzu represents the eternal feminine or water, images of fire & water, sun & moon, male & female, day & night, creative & receptive, all flood to my mind. And I feel embraced by the Tao, the opposites reconciled in blissful joy. May these pages on "Art & Spirit" inspire readers to find the sacred within themselves, as we explore ever more deeply the great beauty and mystery of the universe.

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© Peter Y. Chou— All rights reserved. (3-21-1996)