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Don't Open the Box

By Wynne Stevens

I love the mystery implicit in theories such as those of quantum mechanics. They describe, for example, the sub-atomic world - a world in which strange elements with stranger names live - photons, quarks, leptons and antiquarks... hundreds actually. These are theoretically the primary elements that constitute the intimate nature of matter. Yet they behave in strange and unpredictable ways, at least according to our understanding of reality.

As technology progresses, scientists delve deeper and deeper into the complex structure of matter only, it seems, to be met with more questions than answers. Hence the mystery, the wonder of it all. And, with the mystery, is the question regarding realities and possibilities far greater than our ability to understand. I belong to the majority whose understanding of such theories is superficial at best. Yet they provide wonderful analogies and metaphors that help fill in the gaps of my own concepts of reality and awareness.

For instance, take the concept that quantum elements can exist simultaneously in two separate states - both as particles, like tiny specs of dust, and also as waves or states of pure non-physical energy. How can they be both at the same time? Particles mean matter - a "thing"; waves are energetic in nature - a potential.

When unobserved, these strange elements seem to act only in wave-like form, dancing and vibrating, interacting with other energies in complex and mysterious ways. Here they represent pure energy with infinite potential.

But when scientists "look" or attempt to measure quantum phenomena, these elements leave only "footprints" - the suggestion to the observer that they are discrete particles as evidenced, for example, as the tracks left by electrons on a photographic plate. Does this mean that matter has no real existence except from our observing frame or reference? Is its existence only apparent based on our sensory or measuring apparatus?

This is a bit of a stretch for my unscientific mind. Are quantum elements both energy and matter at the same time... but only observable as particles? If so, this leads me to some interesting speculation.

First, we must also be ultimately composed of these strange quantum elements by virtue of the fact that we are a collection of atoms and molecules in organic and cellular form. Are we therefore both matter and energy at the same time as well - interchangeable and open to infinite states and possibilities?

Science postulates that, in the absence of measurement or observation, the natural state of all things exists as pure energy - unpredictable and forever interacting with other energy fields in a vast universe of infinite potential. This would suggest that our own individual quantum energies are in a continuous interaction with those of all other quantum energies, connected and moving with divine order. I love the image this brings to mind - for me, it is the concept of spiritual connection.

Science is somewhat more mundane, however. Observations of these entities reveal only their particle or matter component at a specific point in time. Once observed, the potential of these quantum elements to take other forms or directions has been forever lost, frozen in time without further possibility. These observed and recorded particles are now separate and discrete. It is said, in scientific jargon, that their infinite potential and interactivity has "collapsed" into a particle (or physical) state through observation. Before observation there was only energetic potential... with infinite possibility. In other words, once we "know" the current state, the other possible states no longer exist.

We open the box and look inside. We must see what's in there. Maybe there's treasure... maybe not. Whatever it is before exists as pure potential... as an energetic state... until we open the box. Then we know. Now its contents are real and finite... its potential has collapsed... separated.

Would there be a way to resist this temptation to look inside the box and always remain in an unlimited state of anticipation? Not easy for us humans. We're not built or wired that way. Our minds and egos demand to see reality and so we continually open the box in an ongoing quest to measure ourselves, our contents, against the contents of others. In so doing, we separate and isolate.

Everyone with whom we interact is, in one way or another, doing the same thing - looking inside the box... attempting to define their own reality in juxtaposition with each other. This reality is limiting - it obscures so much.

While I'm as guilty as the next in my failure to resist this temptation, I am trying to use this abstract principal of quantum theory as a metaphor for the way in which I limit myself or obsessively worry about that which appears to have no solution. If I could spend more time outside rather than inside perhaps I could better feel this unlimited potential of my waveform self... that spiritual component which is always present and always interacting in accordance with a Divine order that has all our best interests in mind. If I believe... if I know there to be this mysterious energetic component of my being, I'm able to be more at peace - even when I'm feeling down and back to looking in the box again. Looking for answers.

Or if I have a problem that seems to endlessly plague me, I'm haunted by what could happen... what could go wrong. I'm constantly looking inside the box freezing the possible outcome to the current moment in time. What if I could leave it alone and allow the total range of possibilities to open before me? Wait for the solution rather than force it?

In truth, there is no box... and there are no limits - only the ones we impose on ourselves. Our makeup is remarkable and mysterious and does consist of the energetic possibility described in the quantum world. It does allow us unlimited potential if we let it.

So the science of Quantum Theory does present me with this helpful metaphor. Don't open the box - there is no box. Focus instead on that range of infinite possibilities and interactions that are mine. They exist for me and with whomever I relate - always present and always with my best interests in heart and mind... and theirs as well.

In reality, we're all in this thing together.

Wynne Stevens runs the Stevens Design Group that specializes in architectural renderings and other marketing graphics for builders, architects and their agencies.

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