Particles, Waves and Happiness
Back in high school, my quirky but passionate Physics teacher introduced us to particles and waves in an attempt to explain physical matter and energy. Is it a particle…or is it a wave? The answer depended on your perspective—and what camp you occupied. It always seemed to be framed in terms of particles versus waves—this or that—an eternal conundrum, a can’t-be-won existential smackdown of sorts. At least that was how my youthful mind-filtration system presented the issue.
By now you may have caught wind of Heisenberg’s famous “uncertainty principle” and the so-called “observer effect,” as many a New Age metaphysician speaks of such things. Through particle experiments, it’s been shown that energy (or matter—it matters not what you call it) actually is a wave, an unlimited collection of possibilities. That is, until an observer (such as you) comes along and focuses their conscious attention upon it. When we look, the wave collapses into just one position or possibility, and then we call it a particle. It seems we humans are incapable of perceiving infinite possibilities, so we usually focus on one at a time. But we often make the erroneous assumption that it’s the only one.
I must admit, it took me a long time to make practical use of this seemingly abstract stuff, but once I did, the effect has been indelibly positive. Like many of us, I’d been prone to black-and-white thinking, going around sorting everyone and everything into buckets labeled this or that. It’s easy to do in this world of duality: opposing teams, political parties, genders, ideologies, and on and on. Whether I acquired this polarizing behavior in early childhood or from societal programming is anyone’s guess, but the important part is that I’ve seen the light… er, excuse me, the photon cloud.
Allowing life to become a collection of “this and that” experiences releases me from the tyranny of intellect and makes more room for true happiness. For example, a friend can be dishonest or (insert adjective here) and I love them. Of course, I may choose to not spend time with the person, but still love them nevertheless. Life is filled with choices. And paradoxes.
Recognizing that other people may indeed be experiencing reality differently enables me to let them off the hook. Like the particle experiments, I think of each person “collapsing the wave” into a crystallized view of life that’s uniquely their own. Apparently we’re all doing this repeatedly, billions of times per second. So there is no need for others to agree with me and share my particular particle-vision. To each her own reality.
This expansive, inclusive quantum orientation informs my writing. At various New Age-y spiritual events, I’ve come across some very colorful characters. Armed with my “this and that” philosophy, I’m able to extract useful information from their words even as I observe contradictory statements, questionable motives, or unsavory behaviors. It’s what I call adventures in baby bathwater. Many people might balk at, or become uncomfortable with, the idea of a speaker channeling a disembodied spirit or alien entity. There may in fact be pearls of wisdom in there, ripe for the gleaning, but rejecting the speaker altogether will short-circuit any potential learning. Instead, I can simply listen with an open mind, without fear of being taken for a ride—or fear of being seen as someone who gets taken for a ride.
It all comes down to self-sovereignty. And since I call the shots in my life, being happy is a choice I like to make frequently throughout the day, collapsing the waves of possibility into pleasing particle-moments, over and over again.