On Being the Cat…
I’ve always loved the limitations of things. When I was a child I would find myself in debates, for sometimes far too long, about the origins of the universe. They’d nearly always devolve into a nobody-knows debate about what caused the big bang.
It’s in this idea of limitations that the Schödinger’s Cat thought experiment has always stood out to me as a unique conundrum.
The crux of the thought experiment is an observable phenomenon in the quantum realm, wherein an atom or photon can exist in the combination of multiple states corresponding to different possible outcomes. It’s a “superposition” for atoms and molecules, and one doesn’t know the state of the subatomic particle until observing it. It is in this weird way that the cat can be both alive or dead; it’s on a continuum of possibility. As Ant-Man said, “The quantum realm is strange.”
But I began to wonder, what if the unknown state of the quantum realm is true in all of life, just observable in the quantum realm? What if we live with the possibility that literally anything can happen from one moment to the next?
There’s further basis for this in physics, wherein a growing number of scientists believe in an infinite number of universes. Physicist David Deustch theorizes that we can peek at the many universes around us in the quantum realm. For simplicity, and because it’s an amazing show, I’d offer up a succinct definition of an infinite number of universes from Rick and Morty:
So, I began to wonder, what if our realities truly are infinite. What if our consciousness then, is a bridge over those infinite possibilities and, rather than observe the cat, we are the cat? Humans would then have the ability to tap into nearly limitless potential.
There’s spiritual guidance for this as well. Jesus told his apostles, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
In the Baghavad Gita, Arjuna receives the wisdom from Vishnu on the specialness of humans, “The body is mortal, but he who dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable.”
Later in life, after my many arguments about the big bang, I learned that a Jesuit priest actually postulated the big bang as an origin story for the universe.
Reading through world religions and learning about humans’ role in the universes, it seems that our souls truly are unique and infinite. The more I learn about physics, the more I understand that there’s a basis in some way for these long-held teachings. Why then do we view faith as irreconcilable with science? Why can’t we hold critical viewpoints on both and find that perhaps, in the beginning, there was something unexplainable?
As for me, I love the idea of the great unknown — the possibility that there are no limits to what I or anyone can do. Just as we have been told all along in so many voices.