Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
I read recently about a process called rippling. This is the idea that each of us creates concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years or even generations to come. Often we exert this influence without conscious intent or knowledge. This idea of rippling is used by the psychiatrist Irvin D Yalom as part of his therapy for patients suffering with death anxiety.
Mortality has been in my face a bit lately. Two people whom I love very much may have a degenerative disease, there is the ongoing saga with my grandparents, and my own continued fears of dying before I did the right thing and facing eternity in the cold and dark. So, I quite like the idea that I might be able to persist in some form through the people who are close to me. I have no family who will mourn, so I try my upmost to have a positive impact on my friends in the hope that I might be remembered fondly on occasion.
Ironically I don’t want anyone at my funeral. I would bury myself if I could, and just not tell anyone that it happened. I would like to be remembered, but I don’t want anyone saying goodbye or being sad about my demise. I don’t think anyone has the right to, but that is a story for another day.
So, with this idea of rippling in my head, I return to my conversation with a friend of mine. He had recently admitted that my reappearance in his life had uncovered a ton of stuff for him, stuff that he thought that he had dealt with. OK, not the sort of rippling I had in mind..... However, we have been talking a lot and a lot has been shared. He has been a great help on more than one occasion, and I thought that perhaps I was managing to reciprocate the favour.
He has been quiet past few days, and told me that he thinks he has made real breakthroughs and managed to sort a lot of stuff out in his head. I was really pleased, but then it hit me (and I’m gonna say now, anyone who says I am not a selfish person can retract that statement this instant).
I had no role to play in his epiphany.
I have tried very hard for this guy for a long time, as you all know. I’ve said everything I that I could, I have sacrificed and exposed and laid out on the table every frickin card I could think of. All to no avail. He continued to insist that he was born a fuck up and nothing was going to make it better, or simply would not talk to me about it. And yet he sent me a link to a song that made everything that I was railing at at the time better for me, and he knew that it would.
I think I’ve been getting it rather wrong all these years. It would appear that I have helped not one iota in this situation, apart from being an emotional punchbag for him to scream at. I suppose this is admirable in itself, but all you need is the skin of a rhino to do that job effectively. I don’t, I got broken quite a lot. So, in order to help, I had to break. I could not contribute anything else other than my fragility.
That sucks a little.
I’ve been told in the past that I am brutally honest. It has never done me any favours. It either lays me out like a slab of meat for the crows, or turns people against me in contempt. My screams have been compared to a scene in Team America recently, hows that for pointing out just how ridiculous you are capable of being. But, my honesty has always been a big part of me. To play the game like everyone else does and kid myself wouldn’t feel right. Maybe rippling is not something that I will do, or maybe it will only be in the form or ‘remember that crazy bitch? She was fucked!’
I suppose people will a least get a giggle if that is the case. Do / will I impact positively upon people? Yes of course I do, I know that. But, today made it quite clear that chances are I will not impact in the way that I want to. I always wanted to be the one who offered the piece of wisdom that stuck in someone’s mind, the one with the eyes too old for her age and a knowing smile. But I think, at this stage anyway, I’m more the one that intrigues but is not taken seriously. I guess what hurts so much is, I give everything for my friends, and they just don't realise it. They don't really need me, but they ask again and again and again. And again and again they get.
A wise man sad to me not so long ago "you are too generous with yourself, you need to keep some back". Today made it very clear just how true this is.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Okaaaaaaaaaaaay, here goes.
Now, I love witchvox.com. I think it is a very interesting and informative site for pagans of all persuasions, offering ideas, support, and insight into all things magical.
There are some authors who insist upon fabricating a scientific argument for the existence of magic. What is worse, is this argument is based on the new and to all intents and purposes, highly complicated science of quantum physics. It is misquoted, misunderstood, and postulated as ‘proof’ for human beings having the ability to exert their will onto and therefore change reality. And this makes me rather cross.
Now, I’m not a die hard believer of magic. I do dabble, it has worked on occasion, but I’m not very good because I do not have complete faith that I can enforce my will onto the universe (I did used to believe that this was possible, and shall be writing a post on the Human Condition and why I have changed my mind on this particular topic later on).
I think that magic is a very personal thing, interpreted differently by each believer, and relative to their unique world view. It is also very subjective. Basically if you believe in magic, it will probably work. The strength of belief is incredible. However, it does not mean that you can physically alter reality. Any 101 book states that the results of magic need not be what you intended, using phrases such as ‘the universe is trying to show you that you are not ready for your request’ or ‘your intent was not clear enough’ and so forth. Casting a love spell will not call forth the man of your dreams from the ether. What it will do, if you believe in magic, is subtly alter your psyche so that your behaviour and perceptions are more favourable to finding the man of your dreams. It will also set up your thought processes to view the outcome, particularly if it is the desired outcome, as the product of your magical attempt.
I think that the clear desire for the magical community to be taken seriously by the scientific is a little sad, much like it is for the (primarily) Christian tradition. To want to prove the existence of magic using science, something so far removed, reveals a deep seated insecurity. If magic truly exists, and you can prove it to others, why do you need the acceptance of scientists? To me, it highlights just how subjective magic is. It highlights that magic has no basis in natural ‘law’ or objective reality, it really only exists in people’s minds.
This post is a critique of an article entitled A Short Case for Magick via New Quantum Mechanics which you can find on the Witch Vox site. I implore you readers, if you find any incorrect information on this post, please tell me and show me where I can learn further. I am not a physicist at the end of the day, and can only explore the following theories to a certain extent.
In fact, this is my first gripe. The author of this particular article, is not a quantum physicist. He is not even an undergraduate student of the topic (or if he is, he really ought to say so as it would boost his credibility substantially). His exposure to and understanding of this subject is therefore not going to match that of a researcher working at CERN. Yet he has the arrogance to claim enough understanding to postulate quantum theory as evidence for something completely removed from scientific enquiry. I am sorry, but he has neither the right nor the credentials, to publish such information as ‘fact’ and thereby misinform the layman who is more than likely to struggle with these concepts and therefore blindly believe his words as truth.
Anyhow, moving on.
The author presents a number of scientific examples to suggest that magical ‘truths’ are indeed fact. I am not going to present his entire argument here, as I am only concerned with his misinterpretation of quantum theory. You can read the article and judge for yourself whether his arguments are compelling, or confused. I am simply attempting to correctly explain the theories that he postulates, and argue for their correct use firmly within the scientific realm not the magical.
A lot of his argument is based around the quantum mathematical tool of the wave function. All particles can be described by their state, which is represented in quantum mechanics using the wave function. ‘State’ encompasses all observable quantities at the particle level. These include position, spin (but not spin in as in a spinning top), velocity and speed. So, my cat can be described by a wave function composed of all the individual wave functions of all its constituent particles.
The wave function of a particle describes the probabilities of all possible states in which that particle could be at a given time, when the actual state hasn’t been determined. Due to this uncertainty, the particle can be thought of as being in *all* states at the same time. This is referred to as ‘superposition’.
Now, determining the actual state of a particle (‘observing’ it) removes this uncertainty, or ‘collapses the wave function’ – so called because the graph of the function changes from being a wave to (more or less) a straight line. The particle is then no longer described as being in a superposition of different states, but rather as a single state.
The author argues that this quantum phenomenon of the wave function is a function itself of magic. He argues that a human being could tune their senses to cause the collapse of the wave function in their immediate environment. The problem here is, is we are talking about a quantum level. Whilst a cat or a human being can be described as a wave function, this does not mean that the whole cat or human being behaves in the same manner as one of its quanta does. To cause the collapse of the wave function in one line of particles in an object does not mean the whole object undergoes collapse. Also, collapse is occurring all the time. Observation does not mean simple to ‘view’. It refers to any sort of interaction. Wave collapse occurs when we touch the table, when the cat sits down, when the bird flies. Everything is effectively in a constant state of collapse, as all particles are in interaction with other particles all the time (the atmosphere does contain particles, after all). Also, he offers no argument that thoughts exist as particles. Magic is thought to be the result of the exertion of will onto our environment. There is no biological nor physical basis for ‘will’. This would suggest that we cannot impose wave function collapse through thought alone; wave function collapse only occurs when particles interact, and yet it is thought that is the primary tool for magic.
This big issue here is that it simply makes no sense to discuss wave function at a macroscopic level. My poor husband to be finally got this very crucial part of information into my small brain last night as I was trying to work out where wave function collapse was happening between my bottom and the sheet. If you take a single proton (in this case, from my bottom) and fling it into deep space, that single proton will have a wave function. Now, take another proton and put it next to it. The protons will interact. The individual wave functions of each proton will collapse, and a new wave function for both protons will form (because wave function describes state). Now, bring a third proton in.....can you see how the level of complication increases dramatically? When discussing a human being, you have so many particles interacting with each other, you effectively have a permanent state of wave function collapse. Wave function has very little relevance to the macroscopic world, so no, you cannot alter reality by collapsing wave function, coz there isn’t anything to collapse! This makes the following sentence redundant: “Now suppose as you may, a person; whom through genetic anomaly, meditation, discipline, willpower, or technology could effect the collapse of the wave functions to the range of their senses by psychosomatically changing the way the measuring device (your senses) worked”
It ain’t happening.
The other quantum theory that is mentioned is that of the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI). The key point of this theory is that wave function collapse is perceived rather than actually occurring as soon as observation (interaction) takes place. Now, the author argues that:
Basically the Many Worlds interpretation states that instead of the wave collapsing into one world and one way; every possible situation where the wave function could be collapsed, reality would instead split off into a parallel world. These parallel worlds would be just like ours but instead the wave would have “collapsed” differently for the conscious observers in that world.
Many Worlds asserts the objective reality of the wave function, but denies wave function collapse. It views reality as a many branched tree where all possible quantum outcomes can be realised, basically it suggests that there are infinite parallel realities to our own. Wave function collapse is therefore only a subjective occurrence, we can only view what happens in the reality that we are in. In fact, superposition is still in place, across multiple realities.
So, the author has contradicted himself here by arguing for collapse in wave function as a function of magic, and then using MWI to further support the claim that magic does exist (see below), but MWI disregards that which he argues allows magicians to alter reality. This is a bit of a worry as he appears to understand the theory, but then totally ignores it and twists it to his own ends.
One can easily extend this to the belief that in many of these “parallel realities” magick does exist in the way the legends describe it and that an individual magician’s attempt to alter reality was also successful in several of these worlds
There is another key point that he has missed. The multiple realities postulated by MWI are non communicating. Did you get that: NON COMMUNICATING. This means that a magician cannot enter these other worlds, alter them in any way, nor when a shaman is in a trance is he interacting with these worlds in any way. Using Many Worlds as ‘proof’ of these statements is an error, as the theory does not allow worlds to communicate.
To use quantum physics to try and prove the existence of magic in the form of humans exerting their will onto material reality does not work. What happens at the quantum level does not happen at a macroscopic level. The proposed explanation for this is the idea of Decoherence.
Decoherence explains how the classical limit (the world we see and live within day to day) emerges from a quantum starting point. The mechanism of decoherence gives the appearance of wave function collapse. When a quantum system interacts with an environment, the two become entangled. The quantum system, therefore, no longer exhibits the behaviour that it would do in isolation. By becoming entangled with the environment, it takes on new behaviours and properties. It looks like a classical system. The environment is ‘measuring’ the quantum system, thus giving the appearance of collapsing the wave. What is actually happening is the quantum nature of the system mixes with and spreads through the environment, and the whole thing gives the appearance of classical behaviour that we see in the macroscopic world.
So quantum physics tells us, that we cannot, as hoooge hooman beans, directly manipulate a quantum system! We cannot see quanta, we cannot use quanta for ‘magic’, quantum laws do not directly impact upon the day to day macroscopic world. We are too bloody big and our world is too bloody complicated. Hoooman beans are subject to the laws of Newtonian physics, not quantum. If we lived in a quantum world, every time you stepped on the ground you would end up in another universe, on the ceiling, with half your body in a pool of water suspended in space and the other half buried in a volcano. But of course, said body of water and said volcano would look nothing like they do in the macroscopic world, as they would also be split in half..... you get my meaning. Nothing would ever get done.
So, there we have it. One mere, budding biologists attempt at explaining why the use of quantum physics as evidence for magic is pseudoscience at its worst. I am now going to have a large whiskey, and a couple of headache pills.
*rolls hands together in glee* oooooh I’m going to enjoy myself with this one, I haven’t felt this satisfied since I heard a journalist on ‘Have I Got News for You’ utter the immortal words:
“Am I the only one who can see that Obama isn’t black, he is beige.....” or something to this effect. That one made me very happy for quite a while.
I have finally discovered some printed support for my intense dislike for positive thinking, in the form of a very good book entitled ‘Smile or Die’ by Barbara Ehrenreich.
I hate this culture of positivity we live in....I really really hate it. My whole life I have been completely baffled by why people refuse to utter a bad word against their fellows, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Why it is considered a terrible thing to feel angry or resentful if you have been done wrong. Instead you get told to forgive! And if you don’t forgive, you will be harming yourself by wallowing in all that negative energy.... ya sure.
I don’t get why crying is viewed as weakness. Why you have to sit and smile and be happy go lucky all the time when with others, otherwise you will be shunned as an ‘emotional vampire who is sucking the positivity from your oh so perfect lighter than light soul....’
Good! Shun away! I don’t want to have to spend my precious time sitting and listening to the inane drivel that falls from 95% of the human population’s lips. I have better things to do. I certainly resent the idea that I have to pretend to be enjoying it otherwise I am not fit to partake in society!
Now, I do see why positive thinking is so attractive, but there is a really scary industry out there that is built around this idea and is making millions out of poor souls who are after a bit of hope. The book the Secret is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous texts out there. It basically tells you that you can get anything you want, anything at all, just by thinking it. Visualise what you want, be it a fast car, a new husband, a puppy, and it will come to you (anyone noticing a connection here!) Ehrenreich exposes the book to be a collection of the wisdom of the ‘positive thinking’ industry, peppered with quotes from various people who ‘style themselves as coaches and motivational speakers’. It was a propaganda trick, and a horrid one at that. The idea that whatever you think and feel you attract results in victimization and a blame culture. Should you not be thinking positively, then your hard luck is your own fault and nothing less that what you deserve.
Yeah. Tell that to the poor bugger who was repeatedly raped as a child and is now too petrified to step out of their own home let alone have a ‘happy’ conversation with someone.
The first chapter of ‘Smile or Die’ is very personal to the author. As a past breast cancer sufferer, she was heavily affected by what she calls ‘the pink ribbon culture’. She suggests that all the positive thinking that sufferers are encouraged to participate in turns the disease into ‘a rite of passage, not an injustice or a tragedy to rail at but a normal marker in the life cycle’. What made my stomach turn was the argument put forward by some nurses, that chemotherapy smoothes and tightens the skin and helps you to loose weight; the idea being that having the disease can actually improve your physical appearance and attractiveness....if it doesn’t kill you. On support forums, should anyone attempt to express mortification, hurt, anger or sadness at their diagnosis, they are instantly attacked for having a bad attitude and wasting their life on bitterness and resentment. Ehrenreich was actually told that she had to go and get counselling to sort herself out when she expressed anger at her disease!
I’m sorry, but I think this is appalling behaviour. It further cements my belief that human beings are cowardly, lowly creatures. The take off of positive thinking to cure everything, from redundancy to cancer, for me points directly to our refusal to face life as it really is. We can’t cope with the idea of anything bad happening in our lives, so we ignore it. Positive thinking is simply a jollier version of narcissism in my opinion. Both involve a complete lack of empathy for our fellow man. Both involve a refusal to face facts, to look suffering in the eye and deal with it rationally. No body wants to help anyone else anymore, in case we get ‘pulled down by other’s negativity’.
A dear friend of mine cannot listen to sad music, she can’t see the point of exposing yourself to misery. If it doesn’t go fast she isn’t interested, and try to keep the lyrics cheery as well please. I enjoy reading about and listening to tales of strife and despair, because it is in these tales that true compassion and love are often expressed. Where the true strength of a person shines through. My friend often tries to persuade me to get more involved with others, to ‘network’ as she puts it. To be a happy go lucky fool amongst even bigger fools in order to have a social life and a pool of people to rely on in times of need. She has also in the past, subscribed to the idea that I should forgive those who do me wrong, as I will only hurt myself if I don’t.
Now, when you ask this person for her opinion on something, she often can’t give you one. She has very few ‘feelings’ towards just about all basic life situations. She doesn’t have a favourite meal, very rarely actively dislikes or likes anyone, can’t tell you whether or not she likes a hairstyle, nor does she take sides in any form of debate. I think this is because of her refusal to face half of life – the bit that hurts. Instead, we have the mask of positivity to maintain and hide behind at all costs. To like / agree with something over something else, means that you must dislike the something else, and that would involve thinking negatively. All must be ok and dandy and all just fine otherwise that nasty feeling in the pit of our stomach will arise and oh god what on earth do I do with it coz I don’t know what to do with it I’ve never looked at it before I know I’ll stuff it down and watch some Mock the Week coz that will make me laugh and there we go all is well again. Now, what was the bit of myself that I might have just learnt about a moment ago but decided to ignore because it involved discomfort? Oh well never mind.
Now, there is a role for positive thinking in life, but for goodness sake people moderation! I think its terribly crippling to maintain a positive outlook all the time. It results in a complete dismissal of key emotions and parts of your psyche, rendering you unable to fully express yourself and live in balance (the key to mental health in my opinion!). The idea that repressed emotions are damaging has been postulated since Freud, and I think actually that this was one of his theories that is still thought to be correct. If you are diagnosed with some terrible disease, to sit and think that if you stay positive then you will survive is really kidding yourself. Yes, you will feel nicer if you don’t collapse in on yourself and fall into a spiral of depression, but I really don’t think that we have a right to tell cancer patients that they if this happens then they hasten their introduction to the reaper. I for one would not blame any of my nearest and dearest if they broke down under such a situation, and I would hope I could respect their right to sit in a darkened room on their own for days on end and sulk.
Instead, we have a culture that creates terribly tragic thought processes like the one illustrated below:
“I know I have to be positive all the time and thats the only way to cope with cancer- but its so hard to do. I know that if I get sad, or scared or upset, I am making my tumour grow faster and I will have shortened my life”
Please dear readers. If life is a bit shitty, don’t sit and ‘force think’ everything to be OK. You can make anything seem ok if you think hard enough, but you are doing your mental health real harm and not making any effect whatsoever on the material world. Take real action, like improving your diet, retraining, cutting back spending money on treats, or communicate with those who hurt you. I’m not saying you have to feel bad when bad things happen, but it is the natural course of things to do so for a time. Allow yourself this basic of human rights. Allow yourself to feel all, rather than fake good.
Friday, 18 June 2010
Blimey, we are on a blogging fanaticism at the moment! Still, this is a good thing I think, I would rather be doing this than sat in front of Jeremy Kyle anyway. And when you are not working, that is a very very easy trap to fall into!
This post is a little random I’m afraid dear readers, more me exercising my ability to realise what is going on only after I’ve sat and talked it out / typed it out (the cat is hardly a good contributor to these internal dilemmas).
Anyhoo, a little context would help here me thinks.
Now, I’ve always been a light sleeper. Often in order to help get myself to sleep, I have a little daydream, generally set in some fantastical world where I am beautiful, powerful, and loved by a score of amazingly good looking and emotionally tortured men (make of this what you will). Lately such pre sleeping day dreams have been based around my dear friend Dragon Age, the computer game that I wrote about a few weeks back. And yes, they have involved the two pixelated lovelies fawning at my feet and obeying my every command.
So, during said day dream I was having a conversation with another certain pixelated lovely from the game, about who I would choose as my husband; delicious elven assassin, or gorgeous hunk of stuff templar. I actually uttered the sentence “I want both of them” (Of course I did, this is a dream!) And what happened next was a little....odd.
I was instantly transported with a whacking great thud to the present, feeling utterly wretched over my ex boss! Now, I walked out of my job a little while back, and received a snotty letter from said ex boss stating that he had gone through me personal emails and had found all sorts of incriminating evidence in their about my attitude and how I spent my time. Naturally I was fairly moritified; I felt very stupid and embarrassed, but overall it really didn’t matter. I couldn’t care less about what he thought of me; he is a nasty, selfish, evil piece of work who treats all of his employees terribly and I hate the fact that I lost 2 years of my working life to his little slave trade that he’s got going on. I just felt foolish for being caught out.
But there I was, practically in tears, feeling so so awful about this letter. Now, I know I have issues with authority, particularly male authority figures. Having someone who was liable to pick you up by various body parts and hoof you into a wall will do that to you. I used to work at a riding stables, where the proprietor was basically the very worst of my mother mixed with step dad. I didn't last long, and also spent a fair while afterwards feeling like I had failed him, that I wasn’t good enough, usual blah blah. This individual appears to have no effect on me anymore. No longer do I replay conversations with him where I would have said or done things differently rather than simply nodded dumbly and then ran into a corner. Nor do I conjure up fantasies where I was able to show him up or receive praise from him. So, maybe we are simply going through the same motions with my ex boss, and this will fade? Most likely.
But why did a fantasy about wanting two men turn into self loathing over my work ethic at this company? This is what I cannot get my head around. Is it the admission of wanting something that is ‘wrong’ and I behaved poorly at work? Is it the admission of wanting my cake and eating it? , which in all honesty I did at work (I didn’t work very hard, I don’t if it is made clear that I am a nothing). Is it that I felt guilty in the daydream for wanting two men, which manifested itself as guilt over the nasty emails that I had written?
I’m sure it has something to do with authority, as the feeling in my stomach was very very similar to that when I feel I have upset my parents. I hate being told off, I can’t cope with it. I instantly revert to exposing my underbelly and bleating “yes, yes I deserve all the punishment you can dish out!” And wallowing in self hatred over my behaviour, regardless of whether or not it was justified (which in the case of my ex boss, it most certainly was!) I do have this fairly ingrained mechanism which states that anyone who is older than me has the right to beat me with a big stick. I can hold my own very well with my peers, but anyone above the age of 40 and I turn into a gibbering looser.
Or maybe, “I want both of them” triggered off some reference in my little brain about wanting to be liked by everyone?
Yesssss, that makes sense. Maybe this was an exposure of how I hate to be disliked? My desire for popularity and acceptance? And my ex boss is the most recent rejection? Which triggered off the whole “Oh my god I got told off I’m a terrible individual” blah....
Hmmm, I’m not getting the weight loss feeling that I normally get with an epiphany, maybe this needs more exploration.
If anyone has any ideas, please tell me J I need all the help I can get!
Anyhow, I wanted to tip my hat to another blogger on the scene, Fire Lyte and his frankly excellent blog Inciting a Riot http://www.incitingariot.com/ .
I wrote this post after smiling broadly at his post concerning Respecting your Elders, which seems even more apt now I have semi worked out what is going on.
I do love this guy’s work, he also writes a number of interesting and well thought out articles on the Witch Vox website. His arguments, whilst not always concise and often served with a touch of arrogance, are nonetheless very intelligent and thought provoking. Unlike a lot of bloggers (including myself, rather shamefully as I am a scientist) he actually researches his posts thoroughly, and he is an excellent source of information on a huge variety of topics. Go check him out, he is very very good.