Wednesday, September 08, 2010

late night thoughts in the morning

One of my most distinct memories of high school is sitting in physics class my senior year and listening to the teacher try to explain that light is both a wave and a particle-- meaning light seems to travel both in continuous waves and also in little discrete packets.  I must have seemed like a complete dolt.  I kept questioning him about it.  How could it be both?  I think I finally ended with, "That's just Not Right."  But now, 30 years later, I totally get that, because it seems like half the stuff in my life is both a wave and a particle.  Belief and unbelief, content and anxious, determined and stymied.  And in more esoteric realms, as well.  Does the fact that I can't list 10 universal moral truths mean that there is no such thing as a universal sense of what is right and what is wrong (that gets interpreted differently in every culture)?  Does the fact that I can't list 10 traits that every woman has mean that there is no Eternal Feminine out there that gets interpreted in infinitely various ways?  (sorry to go all new-agey on you there with the eternal feminine, but I'm just thinking out loud here)(or typing out loud? or thinking-to-type?).  Why can't both be true?  particle and wave, wave and particle.

And yesterday I was sitting in class listening to the professor do a quick rundown of the shift during the 20th century from a metaphysical mindset to a post-modern mindset-- the metaphysical mindset being the one where there is some sort of absolute (whether God or a Platonic ideal or some sort of secular humanist ideal of human nature) outside of existence that we can use as a touchstone, a guide, a place of origin; the post-modern mindset of course doesn't believe that there is anything outside of what we know, that everything we know is dependent on other things we know (Saussure!  Derrida!).  So we understand cow-ness in relationship to (and in opposition to) horse-ness and dog-ness and tree-ness and everything else that we know.  And I find myself thinking, why can't both be true?  Why can't there be something out there, some infinitely spacious ground of universal being, that's so vast that it has little or nothing to do with determining the reality of our little lives?  and otoh, if what's out there is so huge that our little reality isn't something that he/she/it would even begin to notice, what's the point in considering the possibility of its existence? I don't know, but it doesn't seem all that clear to me that either side can claim certainty here. I want to say why can't God both exist and not exist, but that might be pushing the boundaries of the absurd to the point where they break.  Although sometimes I think that's what these theory people are all about.


  1. Pretty deep stuff. :) I like what you're thinking though. I'm an agnostic (sort of) married to an atheist, and I'm a little tired of saying, "Why can't we all just GET ALONG?" ;) Maybe we can!

  2. I found out in my theory class that the "Eternal Feminine" is an idea that Goethe came up with to express a whole bunch of smarmy-sounding things that I knew nothing about when I used the phrase above. I'd edit the post and change it, but I don't know how else I'd word it. So, I hope you didn't know about that either, but if you did, please ignore me.