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Quantum Physics, Philosophy, and Self Determination (a Caitlin On . . . post)

29 September, 2011

I’m sitting in a room talking to my therapist [Every good transsexual has a therapist.] and I am intimately aware of the fact that I am in a room. Think about it. We go through our day only vaguely aware of our surroundings. Yet for some reason today I am alert to the space around me. The near perfect cube I find myself in, the eight feet between ceiling and floor, the door and the infinite space beyond it, and the four and half feet between the therapist and myself. There is the couch I am on and the chair she is in and the finitely-infinite space between us. It is that space between us and the vast space beyond the office door that intrigues me. Intrigues is the right word because I can’t help but notice and wonder about it. There is a vaguely film noir feel about this space; it is simultaneously tight and crushing and vast and unnavigable. It reminds me of John Fords’ classic “Stagecoach.” The vast expansive plains the occupants of the claustrophobic stage travels through mirror the vastness of the surroundings we cross in our tiny, fragile bodies. I don’t just see, but feel the space between the therapist and myself. Or, more accurately, I see through the space, I experience it as a vast emptiness separating her and me. Despite this appearance of pristine emptiness, the space is actively filled by trillions of vibrating atoms that are affecting the jostling, bouncing, gyrating atoms that make up my therapist’s and my persons. We are intimately connected, we are physically affected by the other. This might seem a minor connection, but it is not. How can we say we are alone if the vibrations of billions of people touch us, if the movement of distant stars set-off even the faintest of vibrations within our cells?

As much as we may joke about playing poker with Hegel in his inconstant universe, Quantum Physics and String Theory seem to be rooted in this idea. Physicists who adhere to quantum mechanics argue that every piece of matter in the universe connects to every other piece of matter in the universe. That there is a measurable bond between my body and the child starving to death in Uganda and the CEO who has just embezzled a hundred thousand dollars into a personal account. Consider for a moment the findings of Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto. Emoto studied the effects of human thought on water crystals. The most significant finding from his experiments concerns the emotional impact we have on our environment. Positive thoughts create beautiful, intricate crystalline structures; water that received a bombarding of negative thoughts resulted in a yellowed, disfigured crystalline structure. How do we account for these findings? How do we account for the fact that quantum physicists have run experiments where the observer’s expectations determine the outcome? As strange as that might seem to us who view science as beyond the influence of the personal, there have been reproducible experiments where the outcome is observer-dependent. Even Einstein, despite his resistance to the idea, admitted that quantum physics supported the theory that the universe is observer-created. As Lee Baumann said in God at the Speed of Light, “Many scientists maintain that the universe exists primarily as waves, coalescing into particles only under the act of observation.” In other words, the very act of being observed changes the way the universe functions. If observation alone can create such a dramatic change in behavior how much more so the intentional act of will upon the universe?

Practical observation supports this. Alcoholics Anonymous has long taught that what a person thinks has a dramatic impact on their life experience. If you think positive thoughts then you will draw positive outcomes and a variety of opportunities toward you, but if you expect the negative you will receive negative experiences. The authors Paulo Coelho and James Redfield voice this philosophy in their books. Coelho argues in The Alchemist and Warrior of the Light that what we think will impact what we receive. If we expect positive things, if we seek the good and virtuous, we will receive an increasing number of positive experiences. In the Celestine Prophecy series Redfield suggests a similar theory, the more we anticipate positive outcomes the more likely we are to receive them and the more we expect negative outcomes the more likely we are to be recipients of the tragic. He argues, the observer’s soul and it’s expectations of negative and positive results creates reality. If we accept this, it must impact our philosophy of self. We cannot ignore the other if we are physically affected by their vibrations, nor can we treat ourselves poorly if in doing so we send negative vibrations out into the world. This thought smacks of the Golden Rule, vibrate unto others as you would have them vibrate unto you.

But this raises serious issues for me. How do we survive in a universe where we are under the influence of others? How much of who we are is self-determination and how much is the byproduct of what those around are observing, or more accurately what they are expecting their observations to reveal? A more experienced transsexual woman mentioned at a meeting of the Metropolitan Area Gender Identity Connection (MAGIC) that how we appear to those around is dictated by their initial perception. If, upon viewing us for the first time, we appear feminine in build and presentation, we are perceived as female but if we seem to have a masculine bearing no matter how often we wear a skirt we will be seen as a guy in drag. Of course, it is not quite as simple as that, as the vibrations I am sending out will influence their perception of me. This seems a proof of the argument that if one goes through life feigning confidence ze will convince the majority of people ze is competent and capable. But this is only half of the equation for me. There is also a matter of how I am affected by those around me. Does their perception of who I am have an effect on my ability to be who I am? If the majority of people around me, such as the adults and students I work with, view me as male do I take on more masculine attributes than I would when I am with family or friends that view me as female? Will my presentation of self suffer subtle shifts due to the other’s beliefs? Are we unwitting and unwilling subjects of how those around us perceive us? [This leaves me feeling like Schrödinger’s cat.]

This question is of importance to those who are not transitioning as well. If you were the “bad girl/boy” in high school and you never move out of your small town, are you forced to continue in the vein because those around you perceive you as such? Is change truly possible if those around you are constantly thinking you back into old habits of being? Can the warrior become a pacifist or is ze forced back into more aggressive patterns by the expectations around them? Can the geek ever be cool? Can the bleach bottle blond ever be smart? Does the persistence of stereotypes become a limiting factor in our ability to achieve?

I think, perhaps, we can overcome what others perceive us to be, but it takes an exhausting amount of energy on our end to counter the vibrations sent out by those around us. We have to be willing to act against the universe’s natural flow. Like salmon swimming upstream, we are resisting the definitions and expectations slamming into us and driving us into the expected norm, into the mundane and impersonal. Change, the ability to move asynchronously to those around us, must be the result of commitment and the ability to force our right to self-determination on to the perceptions of society.

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