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Symmetry

54 55 experientiAl symmetries percepts and precepts It is clear that symmetry is an allencompassing principle. We have seen that it is involved in natural structures in countless ways, and that symmetry concepts have become an essential tool for a deeper understanding of the physical world. It is also apparent that symmetry has an aesthetic dimension, and that it contributes to that most elusive of concepts, Beauty. What is rather less tangible is the part that this ordering principle plays in our ordinary experience of life as social beingsneedless to say that it has an important role here too. To begin with, symmetry is an essential component of the basic social norms of reciprocity. We expect fair dealings in social exchanges, and this basic sense of fairness is as natural to humans as it apparently is to our cousins, the higher primates. By extension, any system of justice is bound to reflect these notions of proportionality this is symbolised by the image of the balancescale, that most graphic representation of symmetry. Notions of proportionality and reciprocity also make an essential contribution to every system of religious belief. Most religions hold that our actions in our present lives will determines our fate in the hereafter, to an exact degree. Heavens usually have their inverted equivalent in the form of Hells. Not all religious injunctions are so oppressive, though . . . Perhaps the most elegant of all religious precepts comes in the form of the Golden Rule, which was promulgated by many great spiritual leaders, including Confucius, Jesus Christ and Hillel it is also found in The Mahabharata and Leviticus, and recommended by the Stoic philosophers. The Rule recommends that we treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated, an ethical stance that is hard to improve uponand one that expresses a beautiful symmetry. Above The jostling action of quanta assume an overall symmetrical distribution. Below Symmetry in a coffee cup. Above A kaleidoscope turns a random group into a beautiful object. Below Matter and antimatter, an electron and a positron.
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