Archive for the 'particles & waves' Category

Tensing up

January 7, 2013

Faced with an unknown dog or a bee on the arm, if we remain quiet and relaxed, we don’t escalate the likelihood of harm.  When we want to float in the water, relaxing our muscles and ourselves allows us to.  When we encounter hurt within a human relationship, if we stay with the initial emotion of hurt and don’t transform it into a defensive (tense) posture, we can also remain in an open (here, emotional) posture.  It’s about, I think, being able to tolerate feeling the hurt.  And that, paradoxically, both allows us to pass through the situation (and to let it pass through us) and also not to become more (and more permanently) damaged.

There are times when we cannot tolerate the hurt, and when that happens, I think we use a coping device to attenuate it.  The coping device has its own cost.  Here’s an extreme example:  my boyfriend breaks up with me and I swear off dating altogether.  Maybe for some people this is a stage they have to go through, putting up an impermeable protective wall to assure themselves they won’t be hurt again.  But that impermeable barrier also, obviously, cuts them off from the possibility of a (healthy) new relationship that does work out.

Some people don’t, to use the example above, actually foreswear the dating market, but rather re-enter it using a detached persona, a self separated from their heart.  This looks like a strategy that allows for both relationship and protection, but I think it is actually much worse than withdrawing.  For one thing, without having one’s heart in the game, one is hugely likely to do real damage to other people, because the ability to generalize empathetic feeling I think resides in the heart; if a person is trying to understand other people’s perspective through the intellect and not the heart, I think that understanding will be piecemeal, like particles instead of waves.  It will likely fail to be accurate in a new situation it has not yet encountered, and hence will not be a helpful guide for what to do and will instead be more likely to give rise to behavior that damages.

But walled-off people do conduct relationships that endure, and what about them?  I think they wobble, less so when the other partner knows how to compensate for the missteps taken by the protagonist.  There are some people who are emotionally willing and limber enough to try to compensate in their part of the partner dance for extreme missteps by the protagonist.  Not only are these dances and relationships painful for others to watch, but they often end in the collapse of the compensating partner.  Here’s an example:  primary person doesn’t want partner to have outside secondary relationships (of the platonic sort) and/or makes it difficult for them to have them, and then the primary person complains that the partner has become too emotionally dependent on them.

My main point here, though, is about trying to stay with the initial feeling of hurt and not transform it into something else.  In its original form it can be completely processed, I think, whereas in a transformed state, there will be a residue that clogs up the heart and weighs us down.   If we stay with the original hurt with an open emotional stance, the feeling will pass through us and we through that stage of feeling.  It may take time, but I think it is far preferable to do than to wrap the hurt up in anger and bitterness, for example, and be left with a foreign object within us, or rather, with an outer shell walling us off.

Chip off the old block

November 4, 2011

I think I learned from the Brian Greene series on space and its physics which is being broadcast on Nova on PBS this month that scientists want to chip a piece off of space to create a particle, using the particle accelerator under the Alps.  I couldn’t tell whether this would replicate a natural process or be something new.  And my thoughts about that left me wondering whether this experiment was a wonderful thing or a terrible idea, something that would lead to changes in our world, for better or for worse, or something that is neutral to our present dynamic.

I guess I wish I trusted scientists and thinkers who rely on reason more than on other faculties, to have thought through the possible consequences of their actions in a way I don’t think their chosen means of discerning is actually capable of;  in other words, do these folks really know what they’re doing?

But I can also see the possibility that these scientists may be actually replicating, unknowingly, an important event that took place in another place at another time.  Which doesn’t mean this experiment won’t have consequences, just that it may be a natural outgrowth of previous events and in a way “necessary,” regardless of where it leads.  And for all I know, it may lead somewhere very helpful.

What I guess I wish I could be sure of is that the scientists have enough “willingness,” the emotional orientation of wanting to serve the greater good, that if their experiment doesn’t serve the greater good, their efforts will be blocked or edited in some way so that the greater good is served, regardless.

I do think we make progress regardless, but I also think some paths in this progress are more painful than others.  I think we can’t discern which path will be which with our intellects and reason, however prodigious.  Making that discernment I think is a place for what I think some people, especially those oriented towards using reason and intellect to navigate the world, call “intuition.” I guess I think of it more like asking for directions at a gas station when we’re lost, or maybe listening to that global positioning device.  I would like to encourage scientists to do it, if they don’t already, and I think they will actually make more progress in their chosen fields by their own measures if they do.

Physics for poets and poetry for physicists

October 2, 2011

Or, why do some men seem to have more trouble pulling aside their egos in their spiritual lives? Maybe because it is advantageous in at least some ways for men in the material world to keep the ego in play, maybe it becomes so habitual it is more of an effort when men engage in their spiritual lives to pull it aside?  Maybe it’s a disability affecting a subset of people of both genders?  I don’t know, I’m just guessing.

But here’s why this is on my mind.

I took a physics course while I was in college that was popularly known as “Physics for Poets,” and I wrote my paper for the class on Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan,” and I think I called the paper “Physics for Poets and Poetry for Physicists.”  I’m pretty sure I still have it, but maybe I can say what I need to say without looking for it, maybe in fact I’m better off thinking about it anew.

It’s clearly the line “Did she put on his knowledge with his power” that draws at least my attention.  What I think now about it is that “knowledge” perhaps should be read to mean, or to at least to include the meaning of, “way of knowing” — it’s not just about perceiving bits and bytes and data points of facts, ideas, and secrets, it’s about loosening our mental apparatus like a snake dislocates its jaws to swallow prey, in order to slide around in how we understand, that separates us most of the time from perceiving as “the gods” do.

I’m thinking about this because of listening to Mark Shields and David Brooks talk about primary rescheduling on the PBS NewsHour, and how differently they seem to process the information, whether they focus on the rhythm (Shields — maybe I should retract my earlier generality about men) or discrete beats (Brooks).  It reminded me of how light is both waves and particles.  And then I got to thinking about my on-going challenge of trying to get people who don’t seem perceive “waves,” or to perceive “in waves,” to do that.  Because a line is a set of points, so it should be possible for someone who perceives in points to refocus (like when we look at a picture that includes an optical illusion and all of a sudden see it “the other way”) and see the line.

To be continued.