The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quantum Horses

Asher Crispe, who is a Jewish explicator of all things post-Newtonian and quantumesque, asserts that measuring a thing is equivalent to creating it, as - according to Quantum theory - measuring fixes the reality of something which before had been in a fluctuating state of mere potentiality.

Now, in the first chapter of Numbers, we read about the census of the people of Israel. Each of the 12 tribes are assessed as to each one's number of adult males fit for military service. The Levites were the exception. They were not counted - they were alloted a different role, namely to carry and tend the tabernacle and to camp around it.

As Christians (and by extension, ultimately all people) are considered to be Levites, a holy priesthood, this passage from Numbers tells us two things: 1) Their (our) calling is not to engage in warfare (violence); and 2) as they (we) are not to be counted/measured, we can infer that their (our) reality is not yet fixed and that they (we) are still in the process of being created.

Let's consider (thanks, Asher Crispe) the difference between Classical Ignorance and Quantum Ignorance. Classical ignorance refers to the not-knowing of something fundamentally knowable, but presently not known due to one's current viewpoint. For example, if I wake up in the morning and the curtains are drawn shut, I don't yet know whether the day is cloudy or sunny. The answer is potentially knowable, and the conditions for discovering the answer are also known or knowable - in this case, if I get out of bed and open the curtains, I will find out.

Quantum ignorance, on the other hand, refers to an ignorance the conditions for the remedy of which are themselves unknown and unknowable. In fact, quantum ignorance is lack of knowledge of something which does not yet exist and which cannot be predicted.

The current populist scientific mindset inhabits a Newtonian or classical world, where all ignorance is of the classical kind, and all things are potentially knowable if we can follow the cause/effect trail all the way. This is the default mindset with which we are all familiar and comfortable.

Lynne Gerard in her most recent post critiques this mental habit:
Ethological studies of equines define these aspects [the horse's gestures and actions] in ways that reduce them to behavioural and instinctual commodities - "fixed action patterns" which can be useful for us to gain familiarity with as we pursue particular activities with horses, but which have far too often the effect of stereotyping, pigeon-holing and distancing especially when they serve as a basis for training systems that exploit and subject these noble entities, further limiting our perception of what horses truly are.
Amen, right? Lynne is describing an approach to horses which treats our ignorance of them as classical ignorance and seeks to remedy that lack of knowledge by searching out cause/effect mechanisms. By, in effect, measuring or counting the horse, we fix and limit his reality.

I suppose what I'm trying to do is adopt an attitude where I await the revelation of the answers to things of which I am quantumly ignorant. For example how could I possibly have known that on two occasions (a trimming client and our own George) horses would speak directly to me information which helped me with the way I use my own body? If I imagine the horses and me doing something like dressage, or circus tricks, or whatever, I can picture the kinds of training, etc. we'd have to do in order to overcome our current ignorance. I'd have to "buy a book" and "practice" and so on. I can basically picture the process, although of course along the way there would be surprises. However, when I started out, I could not possibly have known that horses might want to speak healing words to me, and if you'd asked me, "What is it that you currently don't know about your horse and don't know you don't know?" what could my answer possibly have been except, "I don't know."

If I adhered too closely to my classical goals (and, believe me, I still have them), I would never receive quantum gifts.

I should add that we all love our fixed, classical world. Of course we do - it is the world of trees, of water, of sky, of mountains, of children, of horses, of flowers, of food, of hot baths, of color, of light. I love to come into a room and know that the painting I hung on the wall yesterday will still be there today.  Nils Bohr and Einstein were both right - there are real things, and reality is constantly being created. No one wants a world of endless fluctuation and total potentiality. Such a world is the formless void. But the void is the raw material of creation, out of which emerges new and higher reality.

At the sub-atomic level, if you measure the location, you can't identify the speed, and if you measure the speed, you can't identify the location. Doesn't classical ignorance try to identify both? In our final-stage every-day world of creation, of course this is appropriate - we need to know how long to cook the chicken and at what temperature. And we want our car mechanic to know everything there is to know about a car for the purpose of making it work. But as we have one foot in the infinite - inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te - we can't be satisfied only with roast chicken and reliable transportation. We must have the free spirit with which to enjoy them, and the feeling of enjoying them in an infinite universe which doesn't fence us in like The Truman Show. Coming into a specific existence is a form of limitation, but in the sense of giving a ground rather than a ceiling.

The attempt to impose classical knowledge answers onto a creature which possesses a spirit is to oppress, confine, and limit that creature. Yes, you can pin down one aspect of us, but the other remains unknowable, just as the particle's speed or location can be known, but not both. It's a beautiful metaphor for us having one foot in fixed reality and the other in not-yet-reality. The Cross itself symbolizes the cruelty of pinning a living being to both axes at once, essentially forcing it into being mere mechanism - that about which everything can be known, for the purpose of using it.

My daughter works in a special ed school, and she frequently sends me texts relating her adventures and the things the kids say. Two of her boys recently said things which are worth quoting here. My daughter was trying to get one of the kids to do his math, and he replied, "Stop trying to take away my imagination! I need that!"

The other quote is my personal favorite: "You teachers think you are sooooo powerful. But you'll never be able to stop me from dancing!" And he proceeded to dance, and indeed they couldn't stop him. (Although I don't think they tried to, as this is a nice school.) I think there are many horses who would second these childrens' comments.

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