Saturday, October 4, 2014

make it a love story

Last Thursday at around two o'clock, I found myself thinking about quantum superpositions. 

A quantum superposition, according to wikipedia, is "a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics that holds that a physical system—such as an electron—exists partly in all its particular theoretically possible states simultaneously; but when measured or observed, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations." 

The reason I was thinking about quantum superpositions last Thursday at around two o'clock is because that was when I saw Richard Beck's post about them on his blog, where he compared his personal faith/doubt polarity to a quantum superposition. Dr. Beck suggested that faith is like an elementary particle, which (it is believed) is in an infinity of places at the same time. It is both there and not there, and it is only our attempt to quantify or measure its presence that forces the probability of its "there-or-not-thereness" to collapse down to whatever state we end up perceiving as reality. For Dr. Beck, faith is "always both Yes and No, believing and doubting."

Quantum superpositions are hard (impossible?) to wrap your head around, but I think they have wonderful applications for story-telling.

Guess what? 

You are a storyteller, and right now you are telling a story-of-your-life. Out of the near-infinite raw material of experience, you are engaging in a constant re-structuring, fitting your ongoing reality into a necessarily wildly-inaccurate and over-simplified version of what's really going on. 

You don't really know anything. You've just been forced by the need to function and survive into perpetually attempting the impossible: to make sense of infinity. You can't, though, because you're not a god. You're you. You've got a teeny-tiny little pea-sized brain that - despite being the most mysterious, wonderful collection of cells in the known universe - will always be limited by time, space, and finitude. 

So you tell a story. 

You tell it using bits and pieces of other stories - stories you borrow from everywhere. From the stories your parents told you as a child about the way things are, to the sermon you heard in college, to the narrative you read about on that scientist-y website just last week.

Mostly you tell this story to yourself, so that you'll know what you think about things.

But you also tell it to other people, in order to both validate it and to help give it shape. To make it real. I tend to think that the louder and more insistently you tell this story to other people, the more likely it is that you're trying to fill a hug-and-kisses deficit that built up earlier in your life... but that's not the point I'm trying to get at, here. 

The point I'm trying to get at is that each time you tell a story, you collapse the actual reality of your world, removing all the other probabilities and making this one little story you've told into the one that's real.

It's not really real... but it nonetheless becomes your lived reality.

This sounds, of course, like the pluralistic gobbledygook I was warned as a child would lead me straight into the arms of the devil (another story!). Note, however, that I am not denying the existence of reality... I'm just raising some concerns about your ability to apprehend it. This is basic, Philosophy 101 stuff, and is essential to maintaining your humility as a human being. 

It also has very practical applications.

Here's an example: 

You wake up. Your neck is sore. 

This is a new bit of experience that can be fitted into your life-story in any number of ways.

Here are a few:

Story One: You wake up. Your neck his sore. You assume that you have cancer-of-the-neck and are about to die. You run into the street in your underwear, sprint to the nearest ATM, and give all the money in your checking account to the bum at the corner who you've been giving a wide berth to these past three weeks. Then you sprint to the nearest church and demand that God admit you into heaven.

Story Two: You wake up. Your neck is sore. You curse God, the Devil, and Barack Obama for not choreographing reality so that you never have to endure any discomfort, ever. You roll out of bed. You kick the dog. You call up your ex-wife and tell her she's stupid and ugly. You make a molotov cocktail in your kitchen and toss it out the window of your apartment building onto the first pedestrian you see. 

Story Three: You wake up. Your neck is sore. You assume you slept on it wrong, and resolve to stretch more during the day. Then you remember you have a neck, and that you need to be grateful for life. You are. You drop by the florist's on the way to work and get a bouquet of flowers to your mom. 

The possibilities are endless, but the thing you must absolutely remember is this: stories have consequences. The story you tell today will influence the sort of raw material you'll have to tell your story with tomorrow, because as infinite as the possibilities for your life are, every single story comes with a whole lot of inertia. The first storiy I mentioned ends up with you in the looney bin. The next, jail. The third gets you another hug from your mom. 

As you meander through your life collapsing an infinity of possibilities into one, simple story, don't forget to pause from time to time and really pay attention to exactly what sort of story it is that you are telling. 

Is it a love story?

There are a lot of ugly, destructive stories being told out there, and when you feel the weight of their inertia, it is very, very easy to despair. But just remember that the answer to an ugly story is never, EVER to join it. You don't ever have to accept someone else's narrative.

I believe firmly that all good stories are love stories, and that your life is an opportunity to tell a story that positively DRIPS with love. You are collapsing an infinity of possibilities into the story-of-your-life.

Why not make it a love story? 

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