That’s where I’ve been these last ten days or so, wrapped around Schrödinger’s cat in that state of unknowing. My son went missing and I did not know if he was dead or alive. Both possibilities seemed so potent. I wanted to know and not know at the same time. I wanted to peek beneath that lid and keep it securely closed forever.
I’ve always been fascinated by the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, that something can be and not be at the same time. That it exists within a perpetual state of ambiguity until the lid is lifted and someone peeks inside. The act of observation is what breaks the spell and catapults a thing, a cat in this instance, into a single state of being– either alive or dead.
Apparently, according to quantum physics, at the level of the infinitely minute, where atoms and quarks and such are the substance of reality, things exist in a fluid state of infinite potentiality. Yet at this macro level where we experience reality, all appears fixed and certain. Only during heightened times, such as when loved ones go missing, does the dilemma of Schrödinger’s cat become not only real, but preferable.
The hope that my son might still be alive seemed too fragile and fleeting to hold on to. Instead I wanted to wrap myself within a state of unknowing, where there was neither life nor death, being or non-being, but just this rich, potent potential with no edges.
I wanted to remain in that limbo forever because I knew that once the lid was lifted, the dilemma did not really end. If he was dead the long, anguished darkness would descend. If he was alive, the joy would be brief and mixed, because the eventuality of his death was so certain and could come at any instant. Life is fragile and fleeting. Death is the one great certainty.
The lid to my dilemma eventually did lift. The whole time of my unknowing was his as well, it appears. He had been in a hospital in a coma. They called me when he awoke and I went to him. But he was clearly not fully awake. He was in purgatory he told me, neither alive nor dead, and he could not tell if I was real and really there or just a figment of his imagination. He truly believed that he had died and was existing in some hellish limbo. I cannot tell you, but you may well imagine, the anguish I felt hugging a son who thought he was dead.
By the next day the lid was raised for him as well, and he knew that he was indeed alive and that I was really there. His recovery was swift and he was discharged from the hospital.
So all is well, for now, at least.
But I cannot shake this sense of uncertainty about the nature of reality. I would rather live in that quantum field of endless potentiality, rather than being stuck in this macro world of duality where the cataclysmic forces of right and wrong, good and evil, life and death, clash so ferociously, and appear so fixed.
I wonder if it truly is that lifting of a lid that “fixes” a thing? That ties it to one end or the other of an apparent duality, and makes a thing dead or alive?
Or rather, is it our firm belief in a dualistic reality that forces our rational mind into “seeing” either one thing or its opposite, and not the state between?
Is this another paradox to puzzle through? Another box to open?
Let all six sides fly apart.
Let all hard edges dissolve.
Let me wrap my mind around the soft warm body within where nothing is fixed or final.