I actually started to think about energy and wonder what it is while working as a staff nurse in a cardiac critical care unit. I couldn't understand why we took rectal temperatures and why we had to do daily weights on patients who were clinically unstable. It made no sense to me. I thought that we were supposed to be conserving the energy of our patients, and instead it seemed that we were depleting their energy.
I also couldn't understand why some patients did so well, while others did so poorly, despite their original prognoses. Often, seemingly dying patients would rally and "come back to life" while others who were doing well, would suddenly take a turn for the worse and die.
These and other questions eventually led me to embark on a decade long inquiry into the question, what is energy?
What I found was that there are two distinct ideas of energy deeply rooted in science and philosophy. Energy can be viewed as part of the process of change, where it is lost or gained during mechanistic processes. This is the traditional view of energy. Or energy can be viewed as a thing, a phenomenon, which has the inherent ability to change. This idea of energy has been readily embraced throughout the ages by mystics and visionaries.
Most of us talk in language that depicts energy as something we need in order to live. We take in energy in order to function, for example eating food. We can gain or lose energy, or transfer it from one thing to another. On the other hand, we could view ourselves (and all other living and nonliving things) as a manifestation of energy. If this is so, we are all essentially one. A tree has as much purpose as a human being. An inanimate object is as much our kin as a brother or sister.
For example, in nursing we have a theorist, Martha E. Rogers, who posited that human beings and their environments are distinct energy fields. This is different from the premise that all things have an energy field which is believed to be interacting with other energy fields. Rather, all things are energy fields and as such they are inseparable. If everything is an energy field, everything is a manifestation of energy. This is consistent with the alternative view that energy is a phenomenon, which has the inherent ability to change.
While each of these ideas of energy has merit and each has helped to shape the way we view the world, perhaps we have leaned a bit more on one of these ideas, which has led us to abandon and over time, forget, the other. My contention is that it is time to re-embrace the forgotten one.
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