Monday, October 29, 2012

Spooky Times!

About this image: I took this shot of the clock tower on Concord"s Main Street with the 
Capital Dome in the background, using a long exposure to blur the pedestrians and then 
posterizing the image in Photoshop to increase the overall quantum spookiness.

Spookiness is in the air. And it’s not just from Halloween ghosts and goblins. Take, for instance, election day spookiness: Vampire-like political operatives spending hundreds of millions demonizing their opponents, blowing through enough money to reopen NH’s roadside rest areas for eternity – or as a down payment to avoid careening over the dreaded fiscal cliff that economic fortune tellers foresee in their crystal balls.  The candidates all warn of a stampeding hoard of impending catastrophes, all of which will surely be our ruin if we do not vote for them – all, that is, except for one.

The enormity of this omission is, at least to me, the spookiest thing of all! Why is it one subject is never mentioned on the campaign trail by either party, even as the candidates frantically rearrange their schedules as the super storm approaches, the ‘Frankenstorm’ some predict could be the storm of the decade or even the century? Why is it that extreme weather and climate change is not a campaign issue despite the fact that, in the long run, nothing else is more certain to do us harm, if not do us in.

Issues like climate change reveal a deeper existential dread we all harbor, living as we do in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. Many of the old, bedrock realities by which we have lived our lives are either gone or threatened. We want to take action but find ourselves paralyzed instead, like being stuck in place, unable to move when confronted by a nightmare monster. What could be spookier than that!

Life appears increasingly tentative and unpredictable. What kind of a future will our children and grandchildren face?  Can the dazzling profusion of capitalist growth continue or will we be consigned to the quiet rhythm of sustainability? Did Jesus really have a wife? Are we living in a new and exciting Postmodern Age or reverting to the Dark Ages?  Will the human race survive?  Is America on an inevitable downward slide? Has Bill Belichick lost his touch?

Perhaps life is indeed stranger than fiction, more unpredictable than we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams – and always has been!  According to quantum physics, as outlined in David Deutsch’s book, The Beginning of Infinity, we live in a multiverse consisting of an infinite number of ordinary universes all existing simultaneously.

The very essence of the quantum universe is unpredictability: “At every instant, the objects in our physical environment—the atoms in our lungs and the light in our eyes—are making unpredictable choices, deciding what to do next.”  Not to worry, the multiverse contains a universe for every combination of choices, no matter what it is. “The ‘quantum weirdness’ that we observe in the behavior of atoms, the ‘spooky action at a distance’ that Einstein famously disliked, is the result of universes recombining in unexpected ways.”

According to Deutsch, each of us, as a human being, exists in the multiverse as a crowd of almost identical creatures, traveling together through time along closely related histories, splitting and recombining constantly like the atoms of which we are composed.

If life is indeed this spooky, uncertain and unpredictable, than we should at the very least, as almost identical creatures traveling through time together, be kind to one another. Because, as every great spiritual tradition has affirmed, like it or not, we are all in this together.


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