Saturday, July 16, 2016

Are You Certain ?

You're served as a juror enough times and seen sufficient courtroom dramas to be familiar with that idealized state of being free from doubt. To seal the bargain, you've been free of doubt enough times outside the courtroom or, indeed, the courtroom drama to appreciate the glorious extent of being in this state of doubtlessness.

At various times in your life, in particular when navigating the reefs and shoals of puberty and the subsequent years when you felt you'd earned if not experienced doubtlessness, you encountered peers and elders who seemed to have fewer doubt than you, sometimes to an appalling degree.

From your early teens, you had little doubt about your chosen career, only to become beset by doubts as to how you should achieve it, mindful of those about you who were in progress to realizing their careers through some form of study, apprenticeship. 

During those times, additional doubts were beginning to form, related to what you should do and how you should maintain and support yourself should your worst doubts be realized or, failing that, should there be significant delay affecting the point where you realized your career to a tangible degree.

Such doubts and observations related to them may be categorized by a condition no doubt in existence early in the evolution of species that produced homo sapiens, but given a formal entry into the world in 1927 by a German physicist named Werner Heisenberg. 

Although the approach referred to as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle related to the precision with which certain particles could be observed, with relation to their position and momentum, there is no great leap of logic to introduce the question "Observable by whom? " 

The answer, to maintain any meaningful logic, is people.  Heisenberg could have intended the meaning to be less personal, as charted or noted in some mathematical formation, but the aspect of observability has greater relevance for persons than anyone or anything else, even in the case where Heisenberg's Principal stands because it is observable in matter, whether observed by humans or not.

You muddy the scientific waters by bringing the concept of uncertainty into the observations and experiences of humans. In what may be your greatest leap of logic, you observe you and other individuals in various states of uncertainty, then write about them in situ, as it were, where, throughout a series of drafts, you experience varying degrees of uncertainty about the outcome.

Even with your limited perspective of both math and physics, you are able to see that uncertainty has graphable characteristics, in particular position and momentum. A narrative without uncertainty or, to put it another way, a narrative with certainty is arguably not a story. By default,uncertainty is a part of the human condition if not its genome. Story is an attempt to manipulate certainty for a time, giving uncertainty an opportunity to reflect outcome.

Intent is also a factor. You may intend to demonstrate conditions and their momentum or demonstrate an individual such as Sisyphus to demonstrate intent, position, and momentum, which has definite story potential. You may even evoke the surprise of Sisyphus' rock, mashing Sisyphus toe or, indeed, have other unintended consequences in the uncertainty of its certainty.

Ah, there you have it. Uncertainty comes and goes in human affairs in general as it does with a certain repetition in the form of coastal fog during the June and July months here in Santa Barbara.

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