The Universe in a Chair

There’s more space than matter here, but the combination served a beautiful purpose.

Photographed in Venice, Italy


When we look at a chair, we see the wood, but we fail to observe the tree, the forest, the carpenter or our own mind. When we meditate on it, we can see the entire universe in all its interwoven and interdependent relations in the chair. The presence of the wood reveals the presence of the tree. The presence of the leaf reveals the presence of the sun. The presence of the apple blossoms reveal the presence of the apple. Meditators can see the one in the many and the many in the one… The chair is not separate. It exists only in its interdependent relations with everything in the universe. It is because all other things are.

Thich Nhat Hanh


A lesson from both quantum physics and Buddhist philosophy: the farther and more deeply we extend our perception into matter, the less there is of it. At base, there’s string-like vibrations, energy fields. As more and more scientists recognize that energy as consciousness, I think about the carpenter who made this chair. What a wonderful contribution, a comfort to all who rested on it. So many. And here, again, as an image, it points to the tree, the forest, the sun—everything.  


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