Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wave vs. Particle

You knew of the late Charles Werth Rock that he had lied about his age to enlist in the army as World War II raged about us, used some of his G.I. Bill money to enroll at Princeton, where he majored in geology.  Later, he worked for oil companies in the Arabian Gulf, then in a lovely irony became Professor Rock, teaching geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  His dour Presbyterian upbringing to the contrary notwithstanding, he left the university to enroll, as it were, in another institution.  

You knew him first not as Charles Rock but rather as Turiya Chaitanya, a novice monk in the Ramakrishna Order of Vedanta, then as Swami Ganeshananda, later still, on the intimacy of friends basis as Ganesh, among other things a swimming buddy at the Montecito Y.  
Ganesh is the filter to this progression of thoughts and awareness.  

The filtration began one afternoon as we sat in the locker room of the Y in that pleasant glow of having exercised, caught a bit of steam in the sauna, then showered.  "You know,"  he said, "those old guys had it right."  We both knew he was not talking about the old guys in the hot tub, all of whom were perfervid in their small government, free market, no regulation, anti-tax philosophy.  He was talking about the progression of Buddhist and Hindu yoga/philosophers, who had more or less worked out the causes and effects of quantum physics well before quantum physics knew what quantum physics was.

"You, who were once wave,"  I observed, "are now particle."  Meaning he had purposefully changed his destiny and the outcome of probability he had set in motion before turning to his new vocation.

From that, we were off and running.  Even now, with Ganeshananda/Charles Werth Rock having progressed to a state beyond my ability to swim or hang out with him except in the replay of memory, powered only by high school physics and an undisciplined curiosity, the writer's curiosity, I pause from time to time to think of the nature of particles and their abilities to have weight or mass or charge and their potential for joining waves or disassociating from waves. 

I think of attempts to define mathematically how the universe was formed, what happened to it after it was formed, and how it evolved.  I think of theories which I grasp with about as much understanding as I grasped first kiss or first love or lost love or sexual jealousy or the thunk of acceptance when someone I consider to be a silly writer is published to great acclaim.

In a way, this is about particles in the analogy that ideas are particles, floating about.  If they are passed through a Higgs boson field, they acquire weight, and oh, I wish I had Charlie with whom to speculate that the way to give the particulate that is ideas weight is to write them down in some context, breaking as it were the spontaneous symmetry of convention.

Music is often as helpful as quantum physics.  You do not, for instance, need to be able to read key signatures or understand the physics of tonality to recognize the elephant in Camile St. Saens' The Carnival of the Animals.  Nor do you need to be told that you have been taken underwater to swim with the fish.  You feel the elephant and are transported through the field of cultural detail (some might call it Collective Unconscious) to understand that you are now hearing a goddamned fish.

Acting is often helpful because, particularly as Sanford Meisner helped articulate it, acting helps the actor see the truthfulness and agenda of the character. Somewhere inside there are these particles, already being given weight by the fact that you have made ideas of them, where they linger in a Mexican Hat Potential.  It is up to you to give the brim on that Mexican Hat model a tug of some sort, make it look a bit more jaunty that symmetry ever dreamed of.

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