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Seeing things

Two of the many intriguing notions to emerge from physics’ study of matter beyond the human scale are Feynman’s “sum of histories” and Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle.” The first implying that time doesn’t exist at the level of particle physics (quantum mechanics), the other that matter is “relational,” that is, that it doesn’t exist unless particles connect with, or relate to, one another. “Sum of histories” means that the route taken by a particle to connect with another particle is every possible route taken simultaneously. “Uncertainty” means there’s no way of knowing where the particle is in between connecting-relating at any point in time. Heisenberg’s insight came when he observed a pedestrian vanishing in the darkness at night in between street lights.

If we were to observe these odd phenomena on a human scale we would see a horse in a pasture with many paths travel from one end to the other taking every path at once. Only we wouldn’t actually see it because in between the horse’s start and finish it would disappear. We would only observe a horse on one end disappearing and reappearing magically at the other having taken every possible route simultaneously without our seeing it. A clear violation of the laws of physics on a human scale that validate, and are validated by, sensory perception.

We would conclude that our sense of vision that produces data and our brain that processes data had malfunctioned. That we were “seeing things.” And we would take ourselves to a vision clinic to have our eyes examined and then to a medical-psychiatric clinic to have our head examined. Finding that our faculties didn’t malfunction, we would then be forced to conclude that the reality our senses have been feeding us on a human scale hasn’t been telling us the whole story. If something isn’t “right,” if it’s malfunctioning, it must be with what’s going on in spacetime-matter beyond the human scale, at the level of particles and the cosmos.

Let’s be honest

Applying the “laws” of physics that work for us on our scale to these scales gets us nowhere. Obviously we’re dealing with other realities responding to other “laws." And what’s more, they can’t be reconciled.   The greatest minds in physics in the time of Einstein and today have tried and failed to tie together the laws that govern what we observe through telescopes with what we observe through microscopes. To bring the mathematics of objects so massive they warp spacetime into the mathematics of objects so small it’s not certain whether they’re coming or going.

The search for a unified theory -- “quantum gravity” -- was discouraged by the Copenhagen Interpretation over a century ago. Physicists pressed on with their experiments until they called for help from philosophy. And now they’re wondering if the whole thing isn’t a wild goose chase. If matter that can’t always be detected, that doesn’t make sense even when it can, is even “there.” Let’s be honest: if a thing behaves like it’s imaginary, like it’s some kind of magician’s trick, maybe it is.

The path taken to understanding

Two minds, two personalities, trying to connect through communication, like particles, face similar obstacles to understanding. If communication succeeds and connection occurs the route taken from non-understanding or mis-understanding to understanding must involve every possible path simultaneously. Because what we’ve learned from particles is this is how it’s done. In another reality of timelessness that governs the matter our bodies are made of. If we put all our faith in our bodies’ senses to tell us what’s actual, and our bodies are matter that’ acts weird, then let’s be honest: our so-called “reality” is weird. It’s not in sync with the way even our body-matter wants to behave. Newtonian and even Einsteinian physics, that assumed something like divine order in the cosmos, is a distant memory. The divinity that Plato felt in his bones when he gazed upon the stars is chaos -- a joke.

No possible path to connection through understanding can be ignored if personalities intersect in many combinations under many conditions. If motivation depends on which behavioral codes, guides, or value sets predominate. Will it be an intrusive voice dictating to captive minds how to think and behave? Speaking for wounding? Or a respectful voice that helps with spontaneous insights when invited? Speaking for healing? Voices that we’re aware of or not even though Free Will has no more important task than choosing the right one.

Understanding will eventually present us with a manageable set of considerations. But that doesn’t mean that every consideration -- every spark of energy in our personalities, our motivation, and the voice or voices we choose to hear -- isn’t vibrating and foaming with energy like so many quanta filling and connecting every corner of the universe. The image serves a purpose: to make us aware of the scale of consideration that understanding can entail. When not only personalities but also motivations conflict. When the voices we adhere to aren’t on the same page. When all is cacophony until Logic is allowed to make sense of it. Until minds are free to think for themselves.

The incompatibility of idealist-mind and realist-will

One way of coping with the dilemma is to broaden our perspective, the context we rely on for purpose and meaning. To embrace every possible consideration so that if understanding isn’t perfect at least we’ve reduced the likelihood of misunderstanding and minimized its costs. This is the preferred route of “idealists” already disinclined to limit themselves to bodies’ faculties. To eyes and brains when they’ve learned from experience to rely on insights from minds’ intuition to guide them. On the vision of Logic instead of eyes that “see” horses magically disappear and reappear. Galloping from one end of the pasture to the other, in many places at the same time, out of sight. Idealists prefer not to accept and rely on “logic” that makes no sense.

“Realists,” on the other hand, scoff at all of it. Their way out of the dilemma is to put faith in the body and its brain entirely. To leave mind out of it. Don’t “think” at all, so why bother with perspectives and contexts, purpose and meaning. Why bother with considerations if you don’t have to? Let the part of the brain take care of everything that was put there from the beginning, to will behavior by instinct. The blood-and-soil part that whips up tribal passions with the gravity of Wagnerian Tannhausers, florid poetry, monumental architecture, ornate art, bombastic oratory, nocturnal Nuremberg rallies framed in klieg lights.

If navigating through circumstances is all about bodies and their survival then let the part of the brain that’s engineered to serve the body -- to feed it, procreate it, protect it, pleasure it -- cut through unfathomable complexity and bring us to our destination the easy way. With short cuts -- acts of instinct that require no awareness, no effort. By acts of will that instinctively integrate all the considerations and possibilities into one stance mechanically, automatically. The stance of authority backed up by force that can’t be questioned. Why? Because it’s dispensed with questioning. How? By dispensing with mind that does the questioning.

One approach -- the idealist’s -- all about mind. About the limitless capacity of mind to understand, to support, and to create. To take responsibility and be accountable. The other approach -- the realist’s -- all about the unstoppable will of bodies and brains to act. To dispense with minds and thinking and let some other unseen force planted in the brain take over. To take responsibility and spare us the inconvenience, the difficulty and unpleasantness, of accountability. To put ourselves at the service of this unseen force and go forth like an army of clones doing its bidding, sacrificing ourselves to the triumph of its will. To Rome. To Berlin.

There can be no “meeting of the minds”

What chance is there for communication between idealist-mind and realist-will? Between one horse at one end of the pasture relying on awareness to navigate -- every function of mind, every faculty of individuality -- and another horse at the opposite end, blinkered and hooded, relying on blind instinct to navigate. Dismissive of any effort to communicate other than conclusions handed to it beyond its awareness, convinced that it’s already arrived at its destination if nothing is required of it but to submit to another power. There is no chance for communication unless and until the horse at the opposite end of the pasture abandons blind faith in an unseen force to dominate its pasture and everything in it, including the other horse. Unless it ceases abdicating responsibility for its thoughts, feelings, and actions, ceases surrendering its sovereignty to a fantasy of supremacy.

For all that this unseen force cares about or is capable of, this animal brain that accounts for instinct and will surrounded by senseless objects, is domination. Capture prey, kill the competition, take mates and every other object captive, or flee if it’s outmatched. There can be no “meeting of the minds” without two minds. Between mind-judging and will that opposes mind-judging. There can be no common cause between wills if one must submit to the other. They cannot survive and compete on an equal plane. One must prevail over the other, for that is the goal of competition. This is the “realist’s” reality: the dominance of authority that must be unquestioned. That has no tolerance for mind because that is what mind does: question. Asking Why.

The real “authority” in sergeant’s stripes

In this situation there is but one possibility for forward movement. For communication of a kind that can’t connect but at least it can remove the obstacle to communication. Can create conditions less unfavorable to communication. And that is for the realist to meet its opponent on its own ground. On its own turf, the turf of will. If the realist claims superiority from accessing a part of the body’s brain that exercises un-free will -- willpower divorced from Logic -- the mind of the idealist has a willpower of its own. The necessity of Logic. The laws of cause and effect that yield to nothing. Not because they’re agents of will that wields authority from the top down to crush opposition. That’s weakness. But because they’re agents of no force greater than themselves.

They are the law that’s above everything. And they’re there not to crush opposition from the top down but to make possible order and harmony from the bottom up. Through Logic, Love, and Peace rather than their opposites -- illogic, hatred, and conflict. They are the real power on the throne. A vision of authority that the animal brain of the realist has perverted into its mirror-image opposite.

The laws of cause and effect speak for Reality and Truth. And when confronted with foolishness that presumes to speak for anything else there is no give in them. The laws are what they are -- Necessity. Reality and Truth are what they are -- Logic and Love. Fantasies of the “triumph of the will” that presume to be above the law, in an alternate reality of opposites, are no match for it. 

We’re just getting started

The “realist” fancies himself a jack-booted commandant entitled to rule his domain without opposition. An unrealist in a shared world and a fool. OK then, the idealist has someone he’d like the realist to meet. The only character the military mind will listen to. The guy who seriously outranks him. Whose word is law. Who’s way better at not listening than he is, so he’ll show respect. A nice drill sergeant. With a lesson that, one way or another, our comic book action hero will learn. And until he does, he can just go on screwing up in boot camp, peeling potatoes and shoveling shit.

If blind unthinking will that seeks supremacy has a military bent, the mind of an idealist has an answer. A drill sergeant “explaining” to the usurper who would rule its domain unopposed the facts of life. You ain’t nuthin’ but a hound dog. You’re private first class nobody and welcome to Camp Swampy. We don’t “explain” stuff here so everyone can play pat-a-cake. We drill procedure -- the way it’s gotta be -- into everyone’s head so they get with the program.

There’s Logic to the way things are and you align yourself with it or you get your ass busted. You get stuck at the bottom of the pile and you stay there until you get the message. Anybody thinks he's master of the universe and doesn’t have to listen, doesn’t have to think, doesn’t have to communicate or relate, can do KP duty peeling potatoes. Anybody thinks he doesn’t have to answer to a higher power can do latrine duty shoveling shit until he’s learned his lesson.

Son, you didn’t wind up here so we can pamper your foolish ass with pleasantries. You’re here so you can get the facts of life drilled into your thick skull. By will that is will instead of a Marvel Comic joke, a magic act performed by a Joker hiding behind a mask. An act meant to trick gullible fools into imagining what’s not there instead of seeing what is there. Welcome to Necessity. Welcome to Reality. Welcome to boot camp where the real work begins. Where understanding begins.

We’re just getting started.