A sequence of random events

It’s natural, even comforting, for us to weave a coherent linear narrative about ourselves, events, and histories that appear to explain how things happen from the perspective of cause and effect. The chronology of life feels real, that is to say, memory works by picking and choosing moments from our past and then weaving them together as if everything in time and space moves from Point A to Point B. Like a bird pecking at its reflection in the window, however, we always and only see the world through ourselves.

This is just a mind game, you may say, and that’s true; but all philosophy is a mind game, as is our perception of reality. The so-called objective world is visible only through the subjective mind.

Examining the big questions – what is life, does it have meaning? – is the job of philosophers, and from Plato’s premise of perfect forms to Zeno’s examination of paradox, the Mind Only school of Buddhism, Einstein’s space-time Theory of Relativity, and the major religions of the world, philosophy has moved mountains.

We’re born, although we have no memory of that event, and then pass through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and finally death, the latter of which none of us alive know anything. The sequence of events seems so true, so real, and even verifiable, as if written in a script. This is all an act of memory, of course, a product of mind, and bears only a resemblance to the way things really are: a sequence of random events. Time, itself invisible, does not flow; all is the eternal now, a series of fixed instants of no measurable duration. From this frame of reference time does not exist.

Even to speak of a series is incorrect, but so strong is our will to put life in some sort of logical order that to embrace existence as random is all but impossible. This is, nonetheless, the implication of Quantum Mechanics, that each succession of instants reflects probabilities of quantum field fluctuations, eddies produced by wave interactions that to us appear as changed arrangements of matter. These arrangements produce interactions we observe as Classical Physics, displaying reasonable and predictable stability, but underlying it is randomness and probability, which is why life is full of both good and bad surprises.

Good and bad are reflections of our human situation, a matter of philosophy. The natural world makes no such distinctions and goes on its merry way creating and destroying with abandon. With an earthquake here, a Tsunami there, here a flood, there a fire, everywhere an “Oh my!” Old MacDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o!

No wonder we’re anxious.

Physicists refer to a phenomenon they call “quantum jitters” that includes the fluctuating appearance and disappearance of virtual particles – call them wavicles – even in otherwise empty space. Based upon these jitters I’ve developed Quantum Anxiety Theory and attribute to it the origin of life, its great sense of urgency and ultimately its endurance, in short, the survival instinct.

As random and uncertain as the world is, humanity has done fairly well. Our art, music, and literature, while tending towards self-obsession, display superb creativity of mind. Notably, human empathy appears to have no counterpart in the Quantum Realm. The best we can observe is the emission of a photon of light when an electron randomly changes its orbit. Not bad, but it doesn’t hold a candle to J.S. Bach.

3 thoughts on “A sequence of random events

  1. I look at the revelations of quantum physics, to the extent that I understand them at all, as probably accurate but largely meaningless to our earthly, human experience. Those “strange” particle interactions may determine our fates, but they are so incompatible with our lived and studied experience that we can’t make use of them, we can’t fold them into the mythology we’ve created to explain what we’re doing here.

    Maybe some day we’ll be able to bridge the difference between quantum revelations of the nature of time and human experience, but until then, I’m sticking with the mythology.

    1. Of course, it is the realm of imagination we can appreciate the possibility of the effects of quantum mechanics; however, we needn’t ignore that which although invisible is nonetheless operating at a deeper level. How we direct our attention is the key, and at minimum can provide some “sense” of that deeper reality, even if it’s not obvious or apparent. There are times when I’m out walking and visualize myself as a persistent wave form traversing within larger and greater wave forms; it is one reality, but requires imagination. It’s a visualization practice that shifts, ever so slightly, the experience of becoming.

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