Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Still Life and Quantum Mechanics - A Brigid Guest Post
It was once said in an age-old axiom, that an object cannot occupy two positions at the same time. Yet now, with today's technology, it may be argued that it is just possible to do that. The number of places science can go is far greater than I ever believed, even growing up reading Clarke and Asimov at every turn. Most physicists today trying to unite Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics focus on microscopic realms beyond the reach of any conceivable experiment. Perhaps the solution that eluded Einstein is much closer at hand, in the strange territory where quantum mechanics just barely emerges into the human world. And we could be in two places at once. Or occupying the same position at two different times. Or fervently wishing we could
You've all had days like that when simple things went awry, plans made that mattered little to you, mattered much to others, things said, bridges burned, moments that repeated themselves for weeks or months in your head. If only I'd done this, if only I'd said that. Moments in which you wish you could turn back on itself as if you've never been there. Moments that repeat themselves in your memory, minute by minute, wrong place, wrong time.
Things happen when it is time for them to happen they say, and those moments like this long ago likely were meant to be. Perhaps today is, as well. It's a sentimental notion, wishful thinking, or to some, a projection of some great plan by some divine power. But where would we be without wishful thinking? How much hard-bitten logic is there in the world? Would an electron have split with simply cold hard logic, and not a bit of wishful thinking by minds whose conceptions are beyond logic. How much hard reasoning is there really? Maybe somewhere out there in the world, there is a place where reason is never as comfortable as a familiar sweater, where thought is as flat as a glass of stale ale left forgotten on the counter when the phone rang.
There are people happy to live that way, who lie in quiet acceptance of what is thrust upon them. People who numb the reaches of their mind in the same way someone with chronic pain eases their movements with pharmaceuticals. That person thinks there could be more, that possibilities exist, but there is too much effort involved in the motivation to take them there. It would mean giving up what is safe, getting up, moving forward, and who knows if the outcome would be the best thing they ever experienced, or simply shed more light on a world they would prefer stay comfortably dim. Best to stay still, quiet, and in the dark, they say.
Certainly, such a place is safer; where no smudge of desire affects debate, prediction is not contaminated by untried theory and actions aren't clouded by concealed agendas. Still, it is a world flat and colorless as tap water. A world I don't want to live in.
I still have moments where the lone tear for things past come unbidden, yet in each day in me is an increased curiosity for the world around me and what I can take from it, even if reaching for it sometimes causes me to teeter on the edge of a precipice in which only my fate echoes. D.H. Lawrence wrote that in every year we pass an anniversary unaware. That of our own death.
I regularly visited that place. Authors such as Laurence Gonzales write about it in Deep Survival. Where we, as adventurers of the world, circle and circle, climbing faster and higher, up to that spot marked X. That spot that will mark their own demise, flirting with it, teasing, poking the bear. I've seen it enough to recognize and know when I need to stay, and when it's time to leave.
You can do the same in an ordinary life, you can fall off a ladder and break your neck on a lunch break, but we do that blindly. In a life fully lived we engage our fate deliberately, we speak the words we may later regret, but we have to say them. We engage life as an indefatigable opponent that others will wish to tiptoe by, so not to awaken it. We risk our necks, and we risk our hearts, both, cajoled by the spirit of adventure that whispers to us from the dark like a lover, with honeyed voice and strong arms that draw us out of our complacent sleep.
I look at the photos around me on the mantel. Behind a dogsled in Alaska, perched on the side of Mt. Rainer or Mt. Hood with friends, in the pilot's seat of a T-6, face flush from doing aerobatics, in one frame, a leaf plucked from the upper levels of an alpine slope. There's a photo of my only brother and my beloved dog Barkley, there before that month that took them both from me to sudden aggressive cancers. I look at pictures of the last 15 years, time spent alone, graduating from the academy, giving a lecture at a university, a dinner party for friends, Mexican train dominoes and much laughter and beer. I look at more recent pictures, of paths taken, not always straight, but as pristine and intact as the road to glory itself. I look at other frames, vacated or new, awaiting new photos, noting those places to be filled by a heart that is. I am still an adventurer, I'm just an older, wiser explorer of the world, whose limbs and heart though tested still yearn for that last great adventure
I am two women, at the same place, at the same time. The woman here at the apex of life, and the young woman in the photos seeking untarnished dreams. Two women; the one that I have was, and the one that I am. That woman today, green eyes wise with age, will hopefully look at pictures from the past, remembering the woman that I brought me here to this day, hopefully, wiser than the young woman I was, but retaining all of the dreams.
For although many years of life have passed, here still lies ahead miles of water to drift down, if only in my dreams, endless chasms of sky to cross; horizons that will tilt and change, fueled by dreams that I will take on until I can no longer draw breath. Dreams that bring with them moments in which I feel the rush of air and catch the scent of warm breath on my face, entering into that other plane of being in which I see my whole life ahead of me, death still beyond it. Moments in which, in the rush of emotion, I am outside of my body. Outside, yet in, looking away, looking beyond, in a rush or pleasure so intense that I know, that even with that risk, I will chase that moment again. I am in two places, within my heart and outside of it, tasting, seeking, reaching up to touch that last crimp with the tips of my fingers, to climb past that X into the light.
I will never fully understand the science that can transport matter or the circumstances of quantum mechanics that allows for wonders that we can't conceive of. But I can grasp the wonder of my world, in a volcanic rock formed in the earth that holds in place letters from those long gone. In a dog collar laying in revered silence on a small wooden box. In a pressed leaf in a photo frame; a leaf once green, nature's compromise between life and poison, a pragmatic conformation to circumstance, retaining beauty even as it fades to dust.