Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quantum mechanics

Okay, first....don't run away!  For years, I have agreed with the concept of multiple dimensions, which I thought was string theory (I actually have no clue why I thought this was string theory).  But the idea of there being an infinite number of realities, all existing at once, with every possibility existing in at least one of them, is something that has flavored my magical practice from the beginning. 

I am also a fan of the show The Big Bang Theory (yes, I have been a nerd of some sort since grade school!), where they definitely talk about different theories and what not.  And recently, I was reading Witch Crafting (by Phyllis Curott), and it touches on the ideas of magic being supported by some of the current scientific theories.

So, when I went to the library, I decided to do some reading up, and got The Grand Design (by Stephan Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow).  I had sort of put off reading it, expecting it to be quite dry (even though it was supposed to be a non-scientists explanation of stuff), and when I finally sat down to read it I was pleasantly surprised.  It was definitely interesting and not too hard to digest.

Anyways (I swear my rambling will start heading somewhere soon....), the book mainly talks about how the standard concepts of 'how stuff works' doesn't really function so well when you start getting into tiny particles.  While things like our laws of gravity and magnetism work great on an everyday scale (stuff you don't need a microscope to look at), when you start getting towards an atomic level, stuff behaves differently.

That is the basis of Quantum mechanics:  finding out how tiny stuff works. What I found really interesting is that a lot of Quantum mechanics could easily be applied to energy (which is also comprised of tiny bits!). 

One of the goals of scientists for pretty much forever was to find the Grand Unified Theory:  the one theory that explained everything.  However, it is looking like that isn't technically possible.  The book (The Grand Design) explained it like this:  existence is kind of like the earth.  If you try to draw a (flat) map of the entire globe, you really can't because as you get to different areas it gets skewed out of proportion.  What you can do is draw a lot of little maps, each of a different section of the globe.  As these maps get laid out next to each other, you can see how they fit together, and each is accurate for their own area.

This kind of reminds me of a lot of discussions I see about "the right way to do stuff" in the magical community.  There are a lot of people who feel like their way explains everything, but sometimes they really have to stretch to explain things that aren't outside of their field of expertise.  And especially when it comes to why some things work one way for one person but another way for another is almost impossible to explain trying to use the 'one rule' theory.

Another idea that I really liked was that of Model Dependent Realism.  This states that there may be an Ultimate Reality, but it is kind of pointless to worry about it.  What is important is whether the models we use to explain stuff actually agrees with the observations we are other words, do our theories work.  If I have a theory on how energy works, and you have a theory on how energy works...and both of us have never had a personal experience that negates our own theory, then it is pointless for us to sit and argue over who's way is better.  They both work, and so they are both equally real.  Not only that, but your theory might not be real for me because it just won't work for me....but that doesn't make it any less real to you.

This has been a big thing in my practice.  I definitely have things that work well for me that aren't traditional ways of doing things.  There are 'standard' ways of doing things that just don't work well for me.  If I were to try to do things in a traditional way, I wouldn't be very effective at all.  Instead I try things, observe what happens, and then adjust as necessary.  If it works, then it works, and I run  with it.  If it doesn't work, I try to figure out why not and what I can do to make it work.

Now here is where it starts to get a bit tricky.  On a quantum level (remember, this means tiny stuff), if a particle is moving from point A to point B, it doesn't just take one path.  It is not like if I were to roll a ball across the floor.  When talking about tiny things, they are understood to take all possible paths, all at once, to get from point A to point B.  Okay, that is a bit confusing, but I think it has HUGE magical potential.  If I were wanting to accomplish something magically, where I am now becomes point A, and the result I want is point B.  If I think of energy in quantum terms, to get from where I am to where I want to be, that energy can move in an infinite number of ways.  Which way it actually moves is based on how probable that particular path is out of the infinite number of choices.

In fact, when you observe a quantum particle, anywhere along the path from point A to point B, you actually change what happens.  So, if I am not looking, the particle moves in every way possible.  However, if I watch one particular path, and I see the particle on that path, it is no longer moving on all the other paths.  Think about this magically for a minute.  Lets say my point A is me not having a job, and my point B is having a job.  There are a lot of ways that I can get from point A to point B.  But if I work magic, and use energy, I start to effect the outcome.  Now lets say I use a spell to get a job, and while doing it my mind is thinking about me wearing a uniform.  That is me, observing the path of me in a job with a uniform.  I have just nudged the energy in that way.  It is now more likely that any job I get will involve a uniform.  The more 'paths' (or specific qualities) you observe, the more probable those outcomes become.  Not only that but the more you observe (focus), the more you are nudging the energy towards those paths.

What I find really interesting is that when dealing with quantum particles, you don't have to do the observation while the movement is taking place.  If one were to observe light particles that have been moving for thousands of years, how you observe them today actually effects the paths they took to get here....for all those thousands of years.  Now think about how this could effect your understanding of energy.

Not only energy however, this also effects history.  Instead of viewing history as a definite path, it is now a spread of paths.  The present is the known fact, and much like we look at the future in terms of "this will most likely happen if nothing changes" and "this might happen if I do this", we can look at the past in terms of the multitude of ways we could have taken to get to where we are now.  This also ties back into the theory of having multiple universes (or dimensions).  Each possible past exists on another level, in another universe.  I believe we can tap into these alternate universes just as we can our own.  This can be especially useful in working through past traumas, or even working with past opportunities we were unable to make the most of.  It definitely effects my thoughts on pathworking.

I always love when science or commonly accepted ideas mesh with my own magical perspective, and I was not disappointed to find that a lot of scientific thought is very much inline with my own understanding of how energy works, how the world works, and the possibilities of the universe.  It was mentioned in the book that no one is sure in M-theory what exactly the M stands could be 'master', 'mystery' or 'miracle'.  I think it could also be Magic!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thoughts on gratitude and expressing thanks

I recently re-read one of my favorite series (the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs), and there are fae in the books.  One of the things that is mentioned quite a few times is the prohibition against saying thank you to the fae.  Gratitude could be expressed, but you couldn't actually thank the fae (or they would be able to use your thanks as a means of controlling you).

This is a pretty common belief about the fae, and it got me thinking about why it would be bad to thank them.  Another common belief about the fae is they can't lie.  Put them together, and I think you have an interesting reason why a verbal thank you would be undesirable, while showing gratitude was okay.

Think about how many times in a day you say little things (like thank you, I'm sorry, it's okay...) without really meaning them.  I do it all the time.  Sometimes I do feel like I may have inconvenienced someone else, like when I say I'm sorry as I move my shopping cart from where I left it blocking an isle.  Sometimes it's a knee jerk reaction in social situations, like when I am standing still and someone else bumps into me, and 'excuse me' has already left my mouth without my even thinking about it. 

I'm not always truthful in these little bits of politeness.  Sometimes, when I say that it's okay in public, I am thinking quite nasty thoughts because it really was kind of rude whatever the other person did....but I am not going to make a fuss because it's just not worth it to get all worked up about it, so I apologize or accept an apology, rant in my mind, then move on. 

But back to gratitude and thanks.  I think we tend to say the words thank you without much meaning behind them.  And worse, I think we sometimes say them as if just saying the words is enough to show how grateful we are.  And sure, sometimes just words are enough.  If we drop a pen at the bank, and a stranger picks it up and hands it to us, a thank you is probably sufficient.  If our neighbor comes over to our house everyday for a week to take care of our pets while we are out of town on vacation, does a mere thank you really cover it?

Words are important, they really are.  Think about a day where you were just having a really rough day, and everything was going badly.  If you happen to hold the door open so the lady with three fussy kids can get through, even though her hands are full, and she looks at you and says makes you feel better, even if it is just for that moment.

But actions are important too.  Sometimes even more important than words.  If we can show how grateful we are, it leaves a bigger impression.  Instead of just saying thanks for someone who has gone out of their way or inconvenienced themselves to do something for you, find a way to show your gratitude by doing something for them in return.  The more personal the better, the more thought you put into it, the more the recipient will understand how much you care.   The simplest action, if well thought through, can mean more than the most elaborate procedure that doesn't fit the situation. 

And if you do use words, consider expressing your gratitude just saying 'thank you'.  If you tell someone what their actions meant to you or how they made you feel, it will mean so much more than just saying thanks.

If we believe that fae are creatures of truth and trickery both, that they may be bound by their words and yet free to twist them to deceive, it only makes sense that they might distrust thanks.  Add in the concept of owing a debt when someone does something for you and you acknowledge it and you begin to see how the stricture against thanking a fae would prevent you from being bound to pay them back in whatever way they saw fit.