Mr. Donald Eckhardt, a United States Air Force geophysicist, has a chance at leaving his mark on the world. From atop a two-thousand-foot TV antenna in Garber, North Carolina, he's been conducting sensitive measurements of gravity, and last fall he had an unexpected breakthrough. If all goes well, he'll be the discoverer of the sixth fundamental force in nature.
According to current scientific thinking, there are four fundamental natural forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force (which holds the centers of atoms together), and the weak force (which makes some atoms break down in radioactive decay).
But some scientists already have evidence of a fifth force, which supposedly exerts a slight resistence to gravity over distances often to a thousand yards. Their claim is awaiting confirmation among their peers, some of whom suspect that this force might just be another aspect of gravity. Meanwhile, Mr. Eckhardt's discovery, described as "a gravity-enhancing force," is being called the sixth force.
Mr. Eckhardt is thrilled. The possibility of a fifth and sixth force is of keen interest to the Air Force, he explained, because their existence might alter the trajectory of missiles that depend on inertial guidance systems. "If we don't do a good job estimating what gravity is, we won't do a good job guiding the missiles," he said.
I'm pleased to learn of Mr. Eckhardt's progress, and I wish him all success. After all, the last thing I would want is to get blown away by a misguided missile. But I found his work interesting for another reason: I'm also concerned with gravity as a fundamental force. And yet, while Mr. Eckhardt and I appear to have this in common, we're actually worlds apart. I found the irony in this slightly amusing.
Gravity, you see, is also a fundamental force in Krsna consciousness. For in spiritual life unless one is very grave, one risks missing the distinction between matter and spirit altogether, and being unable to make that distinction, one is automatically obliged to pursue whimsical, frivolous objectives in life.
Take me, for example. Formerly, before taking to Krsna consciousness, I pursued such objectives. I lived in a daze of material desire. I wanted among other things riches, a house or two in the country, fancy cars, lots of friends, and a near-perpetual social life. I wanted fame, influence, recognition, and power and ladies, too, of course. And I wanted desperately to leave my mark on the world.
I had no conception of the importance of spiritual discipline, or of the importance of gravity in the general scheme of things.
Krsna consciousness changed that, however. By reading Srila Prabhupada's books and associating with Krsna conscious devotees, I sobered up enough to appreciate that life is much too short for trivial pursuits. I now understand that any activity devoid of Krsna consciousness is either gross sense gratification summarized as eating, sleeping, mating, and self-defense or subtle gratification profit, adoration, and distinction and is therefore frivolous. And I realize that the notion of making my mark on the world is a misguided attempt to seek immortality, when, as a spiritual soul, I'm immortal by constitution.
So now I'm learning about gravity. I'm learning to discern between matter and spirit. I have a long way to go, but like Mr. Eckhardt, I'm glad I'm making progress.