Home: Scrying: Schrödinger’s Apple, Part 1: The dream and grayness

Schrödinger’s Apple, Part 1: The dream and grayness

January 24, 2006

Setting aside evolutionary debates for awhile, I’d like to share a strange little tidbit from my notes. This began as a dream, but unlike normal dreams, never faded from my memory. Instead, it bothered me until I understood the symbols in it, and then became a source of inspiration. It will probably take me several posts to share all the speculation that sprung from this one dream, but it should be worth it. There’s even a decent poem around here somewhere that ties into the whole mess. But, without further ado…

I had this dream:

Somehow, I was Eve, exploring Eden (there was an Adam in the dream too, but that is another story.) Knowing I was in Eden, I didn’t want to do anything to disturb it or lose it. So, I simply watched. I watched as, by cause and effect, from one small action after another, the world unfolded before me. When it reached the point where it looked to me exactly as it did today, both Adam and I looked at each other in shock. How could it be? If we hadn’t left the garden, how could the modern world, with all of the strangeness and sadness, even be there? Adam turned to me, and asked if I’d eaten the apple. Apple? What apple? I didn’t eat any apples… When I couldn’t answer, we rushed back to the tree. There, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil hung… and didn’t. It was flashing in and out of existence like snow on an untuned TV. As we puzzled over the apple’s existence, or non-existence, as it were, a loud, disembodied voice came from above. The voice said, “It’s Schrödinger’s Apple.” Schrodinger's Apple

That was when I awoke… shaken, but curious. The image of Schrödinger’s apple has stayed with me, and come to symbolize the “grayness” of morality. (If you are scratching your head, and saying “who’s Schrödinger?” try googling, or click here. He’s better known for using cats… I can’t say if he even liked apples.)

In my attempts to straigten this out, I wrote a short essay on moral theory. Even when I returned to college shortly thereafter, (where I learned that such a thing should be called a “moral theory” and discovered others had spent lifetimes trying to construct such ideas) I found that it still worked. It parallels other philosophers in some ways, and also in some ways, rejects them all, as it doesn’t make any attempts to divide reality into a subjective or objective concept. It is truly both, if based on a superposition of values, like Schrödinger’s apple… things are absolute, in that they are always complexities of parts, and some discrete parts are subject to change. Ah, but the following short essay describes this in far more simple terms:

 “Black and White or Shades of Gray?”

What is morality? No textbook definition has ever seemed satisfying, or at the very least, complete. It seemed somewhat clear to me that “right” and “wrong” must be as clearly defined as the colors black and white; hence morality would be a simple concept to define, and there should exist no “grayness” in between. This turned out to be wishful thinking on my part. Like the rest of nature, morality is both intricately complex and seductively simple; and like the rest of nature, is a matter of quantum interactions.

To the smallest scales, the universe is a series of causes and effects. An individual moment is defined by the pattern of matter or energy in that space and time. Any change to the state of the matter or energy creates a change in the pattern. The pattern is either reinforced by a positive change or it is disturbed and scattered by a negative change, where it ceases to exist. Each pattern, then, undergoes a evolutionary selection, either surviving through a positive change, or is eliminated through a negative one. Morality is defined by each individual moment; either the survival or the selection of the existence of its pattern.

Nothing occurs alone in a vacuum; all moments are connected, as the universe is one. A series of moments and the changes that occur as a result become pages in a history book, the events that shape our existence. While each moment may be clearly defined as being positive or negative, when set alongside its neighbors (related moments and the connecting effects) differing values result. Imagine an event as a black & white photograph; each moment is expressed as a pixel, either black or white (black representing a negative change, white representing a positive change.) Looking at the picture from a distance, many black and white pixels side by side appear gray. These shades of gray may appear to blend together, creating a neutral balance.

Take for example a rung from the food chain in the African savanna. The lioness ends the life of the antelope with her actions but feeds her young, who are given a chance at survival. While one antelope (perhaps a slow and reluctant one) loses its life, other antelope in the herd are given more opportunity to survive. (One less mouth to feed, so to speak.) Both positive and negative effects result, and a neutral balance is struck. Life in the savanna continues.

This is not to say that every photograph has a perfect balance of neutral grays. Some are dark, filled with black pixels, the negatives overpowering the positives; extinctions, genocide, holocaust. Others are glowing with light, white pixels representing growth and continued existence; births, discoveries, love. In general, however, most events in the universe involve complex levels of moments with multiple positive and negative effects. When represented in the pixels in a photograph, these create images with contrast, interest, and diversity.

Outside of the most extreme examples, when one looks at an event as a whole it is difficult to see any distinct ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness.’ As a whole, it may appear to be dominated by one aspect or another, but without detailed examination, this is merely a perception, possibly false. On the other hand, looking at only the individual aspects of an event can create false perceptions of the whole. For instance, examining one corner of a photograph will not give an accurate sense of the whole image; to look at a certain section and only see light does not mean the rest of the photograph is dominated by darkness. When one tries to say an event is arbitrarily right or wrong, they are generally speaking of their perceptions of the image; They are either looking at the whole, blanketing it with judgment, ignoring the effects of its individual parts, or they try to judge the whole by the value of an individual aspect.

Arguments over morality occur when one seeks to lay responsibility for events that have occurred. Since morality is self-defining, then so is responsibility, but only for each individual effect. It is as impossible to take responsibility for the larger event as it is to see a photograph from a distance and at a close proximity simultaneously. Yet, some have long sought to label whole events and the actions of people as distinctly “right” or “wrong.” They neglect responsibilities for the individual effects and try to assign them to the greater whole. In doing so, they are looking at an entire image and calling it one distinct color or another; ignoring the many shades of gray. Is it possible that by doing so they are causing a hindrance to our understanding and perhaps even to our evolution itself?

Watch carefully the effects of the individual events in life; it is clearly evident when one should take responsibility. If each is guided by a code of self-responsibility, encouraging the promotion of existence, then individually we will enrich our existence, and find the path of evolution a fairly smooth one. However, if we try to assign responsibilities and blame beyond the events we are directly involved in, we will make any change or improvement difficult for others and ourselves. Admire the many shades of gray; their diversities are the art of existence.

-KLF (originally written 2/12/2004)