It was just a normal day for a journalist: I got the assignment to interview Deepak Chopra, the author-doctor-philosopher who's speaking at the Masonic Center on Monday. When I called Chopra, he agreed to talk for 10 minutes while huffing and puffing on his exercise bike. As I said, a normal day for a journalist.
But the interview turned out to be among the most intense 10 minutes I've ever spent. Within seconds, Chopra launched into a disquisition on science, metaphysics and consciousness, cutting to the heart of ancient mysteries -- pretty impressive for a guy in the middle of his morning workout.
In Madison, Chopra will discuss ideas from his upcoming book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. As a proponent of alternative medicine, Chopra has made a career out of connecting body and soul.
"I'll talk about some of the breakthroughs in our understanding of biology and consciousness," he said. "Understanding consciousness will allow us to participate in our own evolution. I hold the view that if you really understand your own consciousness, you have a much more creative way to understand social problems, planetary problems, personal relationships, war, terrorism, global warming, militarism, social injustice and poverty."
That's heavy stuff, and the interview only got heavier from there. Chopra outlined his vision of global healing, which involves combining science with spirituality.
"Science without a deeper understanding of our human nature becomes diabolical," he said. "We have technology now that, at the push of a button, can create mechanized death. We have ancient tribal habits, and science has given us the capacity to destroy all life on this planet. But when science is combined with a deeper understanding of human nature, then science can become a great ally in healing the world. Theater, the arts -- these come from a deeper source, which is our spirit. I'm all for the integration of science with the humanities and spirituality."
Chopra talks the talk about world peace (man, does he ever), but he also walks the walk. He has created a nonprofit organization called Alliance for a New Humanity, which seeks to create a peaceful, sustainable world. He also has an online campaign, I Take The Vow, where people can sign a vow of nonviolence and watch a music video created by Chopra and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics.
Alliance for a New Humanity is apolitical, but Chopra isn't. He blogs on Huffington Post, where he's not shy about scolding Republicans and praising President Obama.
"I think Obama really is a symbolic representation of the great leap in our collective psyche," Chopra said. "He transcends definition. Is he white or black? Is he Muslim or Christian? I feel that Obama is more than an American leader. He's a global leader, and he represents hope and change and creativity."
Chopra has his critics -- those who question his claims for alternative medicine and his view of science. Indeed, I found myself bristling as he described his skeptical take on Darwinian evolution and his belief in intelligence in nature. But I scarcely had time to articulate my objection before the 10-minute metaphysical thrill ride ended.
I'm not sure how much of Chopra's philosophy I ultimately believe, but I am considering taking the vow of nonviolence. The music video is pretty catchy.
Chopra speaks at the Masonic Center, 301 Wisconsin Ave., at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23, in an appearance sponsored by the Tri-Unity Wellife Association. General seating is $45, premium seating $60. A book signing will follow the talk.