Saturday, November 27, 2010

One-Up On Miss Cleo

I'm a big fan of the Heisenberg Principle.  Also known as the uncertainty principle, it states that precise inequalities that certain pairs of physical properties, such as position and momentum, cannot be simultaneously known to arbitrarily high precision.  Expanded to a view of a closed system, the principle states that there are limits on how precisely you can observe something before it moves and changes.  The more accurately you try to nail something down as being X, the farther from X it is at any given point in time.  One can extrapolate from this that the act of observing something can actually change its character and make it something different, which Michel Foucault later expanded on in The Birth of the Clinic.

I never thought about it as a philosophy of life and universal construct, until I heard a talk by Dr. James Watson (the American guy who helped discover the DNA double helix structure) while in college.  He spoke about discovering the principle as a teenager, and finding that it gave him comfort to know that you couldn't ever characterize something or believe in something entirely, and that if you tried to, you would just wind up unhappy because you would be chasing a futile and ultimately inaccurate construct.  It was surprising to hear him describe it that way, and comforting because I felt the same way.

For this reason, I am often very hesitant to call a spade a spade when it comes to life.  I tend to be more comfortable in the grey zone, stating that things are partly good and partly bad, partly from this cause and partly from that cause.  I believe strongly in science, and even more strongly in solid statistics, but when it comes to what I can see and observe, I often don't trust myself to characterize something a certain way.  It gets tricky, though.  When it comes to the big decisions of your life, the ones that involve other people, you have to say that this person is good enough to be in your life, or that person is not worthwhile to keep.  You have to assess whether a lifetime of hurts is worth a few intermittent moments of happiness, and then upset yourself more by asking whether those moments of happiness were ever real ones or deep ones or meaningful ones.  At the same time, you can't cut everyone out when they disappoint you, and declare the world to be full of assholes and say you're going to live in a cave and eat bark.  So when Thanksgiving comes around, it's the time of year where you have to speak up and say, I am grateful for these people who are in my life.  It's a time where you have to call a spade a spade, and say thank you for the ones that you observe, at that moment in time, to be good.

I know certain people who can easily characterize their interactions with their family, friends or significant others as "Awesome!" or "I just don't talk to them", and they're at peace with that, no questions asked.  I always feel jealous, because I would love to have that kind of certainty.  To some extent, the only people I can genuinely characterize as totally awesome are the people that I barely see.  In the few moments where I characterize someone in my life as "wonderful", or say that "I'm glad that things are going great now" or "I'm happy in my life with Joe", I can predict with unequivocal certainty that the person I have just observed will go out of his or her way to make me feel unloved, miserable and foolish for allowing them in and giving my trust, and believing for one second that I could nail them down as a person who took care of me with no questions asked.  So when I wrote the previous post, I did it with a certain amount of dread, knowing that at least a few of the people I showed appreciation for would lose control so heavily as to make me question whether I really wanted them in my life at all.  Those people came through this weekend, in fine form.  I wish I hadn't been right.

It's so predictable, I have to wonder whether those who think they have simply great relationships with their families or spouses really have any relationship at all.  I suspect that they don't, and that they just have polite causal associations that masquerade as relationships, because they never take time to discuss or analyze the bad.  Their relationships aren't tested, because nothing important ever happens, and nobody ever tries to be an essential component in someone else's life.  Maybe the Heisenberg doesn't apply to them because they don't look, they don't observe, they don't try to analyze.  They just take what they have and pretend that it makes for a functional relationship, or a meaningful parthership, or a happy ending.  If I think of it that way, then some of my unhappiness is my fault - I'm the one peering through the microscope in the first place.  And yet, I can't close my eyes.  I always have to look, and then fear that I can't trust what I see in front of me.

I suppose what I am really searching for is a person who can prove Heisenberg wrong.

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