Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.
Mass, time, magnetic moment, the unconscious: we have grown up with these symbolic concepts, so that we are startled to be told that man had once to create them for himself. He had indeed, and he has: for mass is not an intuition in the muscle, and time is not bought ready-made at the watchmaker’s.
The discoveries of science, the works of art are explorations — more, are explosions, of a hidden likeness. The discoverer or the artist presents in them two aspects of nature and fuses them into one. This is the act of creation, in which an original thought is born, and it is the same act in original science and original art.
All perception of truth is the detection of an analogy; we reason from our hands to our heads.
The symbol and the metaphor are as necessary to science as to poetry.
Although human activity cannot destroy the global ecosystem, we can change it in ways that will be unpleasant for us.
Mystics understand the roots of the Tao but not its branches; scientists understand its branches but not its roots.
Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science; but men and women need both.
But we know very well that this natural universe is neither prickles nor goo exclusively: it’s gooey prickles and prickly goo [and] we’re always playing with the two.
Animated here: http://www.freshminds.com/animation/alan_watts_prickles.html
And explained further in Watts’ essay on “The Nature of Consciousness”:
Organisms are resilient patterns in a turbulent flow
Quote in context: “Imagine a child playing in a woodland stream, poking a stick into an eddy in the flowing current, thereby disrupting it. But the eddy quickly reforms. The child disperses it again. Again it reforms, and the fascinating game goes on. There you have it! Organisms are resilient patterns in a turbulent flow—patterns in an energy flow…. It is becoming increasingly clear that to understand living systems in any deep sense, we must come to see them not materialistically, as machines, but as stable, complex, dynamic organization.”
— Carl R. Woese. 2004. “A New Biology for a New Century.” Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2004 June; 68(2): 173–186. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC419918/
We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. A pattern is a message, and may be transmitted as a message
Hydrogen is a light, odorless gas, which, given enough time, turns into people.
That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!