The Freedom Vector and the Quantum Ladder of Life
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The Freedom Vector and the Quantum Ladder of Life
I had an epiphany this morning that seemed to clear up some of the great mysteries in life. It is all tied up in the title of this little literary effort -- the freedom vector and the quantum ladder of life. Hopefully someone reading this will have patience with my method. I tend to think of myself as an analyst/engineer/scientist/philosopher and I would hope that this is written to be understood by the majority of people out in internetland. I admit to writing with a certain amount of extraneous detail but it is my nature. Please allow yourself a good block of time to absorb my message. Using the skimming and scanning methods of speed reading may not allow for proper understanding. In trying to explain my ideas here I am going to generate a series of analogies. No one analogy seems to cover the entire topic.
I think we should all know ourselves and part of this knowledge would be to know our motivations and levels of ambition. I recently read a free e-book, 'Reminiscences of an Astronomer', by Simon Newcomb. Simon called his early occupation -- a human computer.
The reminiscences of an astronomer, Volume 3 By Simon Newcomb
I was struck by his motivation in writing the book and his motivation is apparent in the way he structured the book. He indicated in the first chapter that he had written a couple of other books that described his biography but that he did not think they were any good but he felt he needed to at least put in this book his account of his early life and what motivated him. No mention is made of his politics or personal life outside of his work. I recommend reading the book -- it is a free ebook from Google. The point I want to make here is that he grew up on a farming and fishing area in Nova Scotia and he described the people around him and how he wanted to know more than he could learn in this somewhat primitive area. He wanted to go to the light -- the light of knowledge -- and he wanted to be where he could read books and learn things he could never learn in a farming and fishing village. Simon was motivated enough to learn mathmatics and astronomy and became a famous astronomer/scientist in Washington D.C. He was the man the White House staff called when President Garfield was trying to recover from the assassin's bullet in the heat of July 1881. Simon was asked to help in developing a plan to get some cooling air to the ailing president. Simon's search for knowledge and some of the discoveries and the science of the late 1800's makes facinating reading. Simon longed to become a denizen of the light (someone who needed mental nourishment from reading) and he thought he found it in an apprentiship at the age of 16 to a Doctor named Foshay.
Simon thought he was going to find a huge library in the doctor's home. He was quite disappointed and his first book from the doctor was from 'Miner and Tulley' on fevers in the Connecticut Valley, etc -- available as a google free e-book. Simon was very disappointed and when trying to get the doctor to help him learn he got some strange advice from the doctor. Foshay's advice to Simon: 'This world is all a humbug, and the biggest humbug is the best man. That's the Yankee doctrine, and that's the reason Yankees get along so well. You have no organ of secretiveness. You have a window in your breast that everyone can look into and see what you are thinking about. You must shut up that window, as I do. No one can tell from my talk or looks what I am thinking about.' Simon did not understand what that meant at the time but over the next year or so he finally came to understand that the doctor was a quack and that his advice was kind of a description of how someone like him could actually succeed in his profession. He was no real doctor but put up a pretty effective persona to fool people. Eventually Simon had to run away from the doctor and barely escaped. He went back to his father who was now in Vermont and eventually got some education and by a series of teaching positions, gradually learned more and more and eventually ended up as a mathmatician/astronomer assigned to America's first effort at creating a national observatory in Washington D.C. Here is another quotation from Simon descibing how he felt when he had first arrived in D.C. : 'I had not yet gotten into the world of light. But I felt as one, who standing outside, could knock against the wall and hear an answering knock within.' That was Simon's comment on first getting some recognition after writing letters to scientific journals -- after he started getting to go into the Smithsonian Library to study. Another important point I got from Simon's book was something he repeated several times in his descriptions of some of the famous men he met and other men who had pure genius but never managed to achieve fame. He said to achieve fame or recognition you had to have the talent but also the opportunity to compile a body of work over many years. Jobs and positions sometimes end before the body of work has reached the critical mass. I would agree that there are a lot of interruptions and distractions in life.
I have read a couple of other biographies in the last year or so and I want to mention a couple of similar things I saw in them before going on to describe my ephiphany. One book was a book on the life of Sigmund Freud and I want to note the long time it took for him to achieve his goals. As I remember he had to live on the edge of poverty and wait something like eight years engaged to his future wife before he could earn enough money to afford marriage. To earn the money needed to support his future family and his mother and siblings he was attempting to achieve a higher status either in teaching or as a doctor. He missed an opportunity when he was able to study the first opiates available and wrote some papers on cocaine that he hoped would establish his credentials. I suspect his own phyisiology tripped him up as he tried some himself and on others around him and got caught up in the euphoric aspects of the drug. Freud was apparently immune to the addictive effects of cocaine and did not realize that effect could have on others. He barely escaped getting blamed for a lot of the addictions and associated problems that shortly appeared when cocaine prescriptions became more widespread. He could have avoided a lot of problems and achieved the status he wanted if he had concentrated instead on the anaethetic properties useful for local anaethesia like novacaine shots used in dentistry. Instead it took him many more years and another path -- his discovery of the talking cure kind of phychiatry -- to finally achieve his financial goal. To tie this discussion of Freud's life to the topic of this article I want to point out that by finally getting to the point where his financial needs were met allowed him to have more time and more money to use in continued studies. A consequence of meeting his financial goal was that possibly he achieved his real goal -- freedom to continue his studies and experiments. Would Freud have become famous without the time and money to complete the large body of work encompassing many years? -- remember Simon's observation on what it takes to convert talent or genius to fame.
The other biography was on Johanne Sebastian Bach. It was less interesting to me and I could not finish the book but I can not help but mention the decription of his early life and how he achieved his education. Like Simon he ended up as an apprentice but the occupations were quite different. All of Bach's immediate and extended family were musicians and it was amazing how many jobs there were as musicians at that time in Germany. Every church had a choir and an organist and every important noble or official seemed to have a personal orchestra. But just as Freud could barely scrape by with a doctor's degree, all of these numerous musicians were just scraping by and living in rented apartments. Musicians were common and low paid but also most of them were apparently not very talented or at least if they had any talent they had not been able to get the further education and experience to improve their musical skills. I know little of the science or art of music but apparently Bach became intensely interested in improving his knowledge and skill in music. Just as Simon Newcomb was attempting to reach the light of knowledge in the areas of science, mathmatics, and astronomy, Bach was driven to study music. Bach became blind in later life and blamed it on an experience he had as an apprentice. Bach was apprenticed to one of his uncles and learning to master the German version of the harpsicord. Just as Simon in his youthful enthusiasm thought he was going to have access to a large library of books owned by doctor Foshay, young Sebastian thought he was going to have access to some serious sheet music from his uncle's library of music. But just as Simon's plans were frustrated by the Yankee doctor, Bach's German uncle restricted access to the music and apparently would not let him study anything outside of the uncle's plan -- even on Bach's own limited free time. Bach, like Simon was driven toward the light of learning and saw some foreign organ sheet music that he really wanted to study. He read the music over a period of months by sneaking around at night and reading the sheet music in the dark by the light of the moon coming in through the window. He believed the strain on his eyes caused his later blindness. Unlike his relatively untalented fellow musicians, Bach continued to move around and avail himself of every opportunity to study other music and instruments and eventually reached a position of freedom to develop a large body of work over many years -- the music for which he is famous.
Getting back to the topic of this article -- the freedom vector and the quantum ladder of life -- I want to note that in the biographical examples above that there is the element of movement in different directions for different reasons. Simon was driven by his desire to reach the light to move away from his rural village to a town over 100 miles away to get to the town where the quack doctor lived. He had very little money and he managed to get there on foot at the age of sixteen in the 1840s. Two years later he again had to move when he ran away from the unproductive apprentiship and managed to get all the way to Vermont and later continued moving for the same motivations in continuing his learning and eventually arriving in Washington D.C. Freud moved many times to contiunue his life's work and eventually ended up in London because of the Nazi efforts to rid the expanding German Reich of Jews. Freud lived through some fairly unstable times in Europe with the rise of fascism and communism. The book I read was over 600 pages and was an abridgement of a much larger three volume work. Near the end of the book the author noted that he should devote at least a few sentences to Freud's possible political viewpoint since he lived in this troubled time in world politics. He said that Freud was known to answer questions on his political viewpoint relative to communism by saying : (I am paraphrasing) 'I once listened to a proponent of communism speak for 40 minutes on the topic. For the first 20 minutes he described his belief in the evils of capitalism and how communists want to destroy the present system and bring it down having everyone finally understand capitalism as a failed system. For the remaining 20 minutes he described the utopian system that would be formed as the new workers' paradise when everyone was convinced. Freud said after listening to the communist that he half-believed him -- that he believed the first half. Similarly, Bach had to move many times to finally end up in the position that gave him the freedom to study and compose.
Here is where I submit my first analogy. The common element here is movement toward the 'light' or goal that each man was striving for. I thought of using the word 'factor' rather than 'vector' in the title as you can look at factors as the elements that make up motivations. But my scientific background gives me an understanding of the word 'vector' to mean a representation of the actual movement in coordinate geometry. The simplest way of decribing a vector is to describe a person in a hot-air balloon taking off straight up into the air and staying up for some time. The ballon will eventually end up back on the ground -- the 'z' dimension -- but the time of flight could be short or long depending on the weight of the balloon, the amount of fuel for the burner, and especially depending on the flying abilities and ambition level of the balloon pilot. The distance away from the launching point and the direction are the 'x' and 'y' components and would depend on the prevailing winds -- that may be different at different altitudes during the flight -- and whatever flying abilities the balloon and pilot has. Just as the vector describing a balloon's flight shows just the starting point and end point of the flight my epiphany was that what you see in a person's life is like that vector -- just the direction and distance from the starting point. Where the 'freedom' part of the title comes into the picture is when you consider what the balloon pilot did during the flight versus the winds and physical constraints of the vehicle. The epiphany comes in considering not the distance and direction from the starting point but consider whether or not the end point was in fact the target the pilot was aiming for or whether or not he was even attempting to fly the balloon. Motivation levels and ambition levels vary with the individual. Note that the vector does not really tell you the elements of the flight -- the pilot may have flown circles around the starting point or gone many miles out and then came back. And most important of all, the vector does not tell you whether any or all of the flight path or the destination was what the pilot intended.
The epiphany came to me this morning while I was lying in bed getting ready to arise and go to work at my security guard job. As part of the job, I am able to spend some time on the security office computer and a day or so ago I had watched a YouTube video of one of Christopher Hitchens' debates. Hitchens died of esophegal cancer a few months ago, but I have watched him many times on TV and read many of his political articles on the internet. I loved a lot of his articles and his genius at constructing his arguments but I distinctly remember that I could never figure out if he was a liberal or a conservative. The debate was :
Debate - William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens - Does God Exist?
Hitchens is famous for his part in debates like this and there are many websites devoted to Hitchens and some have transcriptions of his debates. YouTube has hundreds of videos of entire debates or short clips from the debates. Something that is apparent here is that Hitchens has debated all over the country and perhaps the world mostly on religious campuses. Note that Hitchens is the common denominator here in that it is he against Priests, Pastors, and Rabbis. He is always on the non-religious side of the debate. I was at some point wondering why anyone would want to do such a thing. Someone who has not read his articles or listened to him speak may think he is some ignorant atheist like Bill Maher but I have studied Hitchens and he is nothing like Maher. Listening to the debates I realized that Hitchens is not the anti-christ and that he is more like a parent trying to influence the behavior of a child. He is careful to attack just the bad behavior and not the child. He points out the immoral actions of religious figures of all faiths and particularly attacks the codified behavior in most of the religious texts. It would appear that religious people unconciously pick and choose which portions of these texts to obey or ignore. Doctor Craig answered a Hitchens argument about some specific text of the bible with reponses stating he had not really thought much about that. I hear a lot of similar responses myself. As these types of debates go, neither side really convinces many people one way or another but the format of the debate and the preparation and performance of articulating each side makes for an interesting video. The memorable part of one of the debates for me was in the question and answer period at the end of the debate when someone asked Hitchens why he did all of these debates.
He said he did it because he wanted freedom for himself and others from the tyranny of religion. This explains why he wrote books about George Orwell and Mother Teresa ('The Missionary Postition' I remember a talk show interview when he explained how he was proud of the title because it was a triple entendre). Orwell's writings are about freedom from the tyranny of communism and similar ideas while Hitchens' book on Mother Teresa details the religious tyranny he wishes the world to be free from suffering. I watched the Hitchens debate with Tony Blair and I was struck by how he continued doing this debate touring while clearly entering the end-game of his life.
Christopher Hitchens vs Tony Blair Debate: Is Religion A Force For Good in the World
He had lost at least 50 pounds and was hairless from kemotherapy -- but he was still doing it -- why? He can't possibly need the money so why put himself through this effort? The epiphany to me was that Hitchens was where he needed to be -- not necessarily where he wanted to be -- I am sure he did not want to deal with cancer -- but he was going to be in that debate arena as long as he could. We all end up at the end point of a vector that is the combined indication of only where you are now but the endpoint does not indicate what direction you were aiming for or really how much territory you covered in your balloon flight or even if you are still in flight -- but you are probably where you need to be psychologically. I can think of some of my children and wonder why they don't go to college or even do any reading and the answer is that they are in the state they want to be. I have a couple of older friends that were married for a short time years ago and have spent the last twenty years or so not even dating and neither even has a cable or satellite TV connection or even a pet. It would bother me to not be able to touch or be touched by another person or animal and the lack of connection to the world boggles my mind -- but I realized that these guys are where they need to be otherwise they would be doing something about their condition. In a way they are the most 'free' people I know since they are in their own comfort zone and are content not to enter into the strife involved with obtaining some small improvement in their condition.
I am reminded of the part in the movie 'City Slickers' where Billy Crystal finds the idea of the 'one thing' from the trail boss Curly and he is finally happy where he is in his life.
Wikipedia's plot of the movie 'City Slickers'
Hitchens appears to have found his 'one thing' in the topics of his books and his attempts to influence people in the debates. Unless we have had some catastrophe in life, we are probably all where we need to be even if we are not exactly where we want to be. I am reminded of the lyrics of a Rolling Stones song: You can't always get what you want But if you try sometimes You just might find You get what you need. 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road' or other phrases like the title of Steve Jobs book 'The Journey is the Reward' can now be understood in terms of the level of freedom Jobs was striving to reach. Yahoo answers had an answer: What does this mean: "the journey is the reward?"?
The Best Answer - Chosen by Voters was :
"It isn't the winning or losing that matters, it's how you play the game."
The objective is not the reward, the REAL reward is the skills that you develop, the things you learn about yourself and the general good that you do for other people along the way.
The hot air balloon analogy is two dimensional and does not describe the striving or lack of striving toward the particular freedom from something or freedom to do something that motivates people or why people get 'stuck' in certain conditions. The balloon analogy really only describes the end-point or where a person is or has ended up in life and since it does not describe the journey, I submit a second analogy -- the quantum ladder of life. The levels of motivation or perceived ambition of different people might also be explained by an understanding of the 'quantum ladder of life'. I ran across this concept in a book on natural science that was part of a series of books on science that was published in the 1960s or so. Reading this book made me understand what the word 'quantum' really meant. Words like 'digital' and 'integer' are a good example of the quantum ladder. The dictionary defines 'quantum' as the minimum amount of any physical energy involved in an interaction such as moving from one energy state to another. The 'ladder rungs' I will be talking about are really the starting and ending positions of the interaction and I want to make clear that these starting and ending positions are really 'sticky' positions like two magnets stuck together. Most people probably don't truly understand the difference or relationship of analog to digital in electronics. All of the signals used in radio, television, and computers are truly 'analog' when you get to a level of actually measuring them. It is kind of like the relationship of integers to real numbers. An integer is a real number itself but is a representation of a rounded up or down real number. To understand the relationship of digital to analog in the quantum ladder of life analogy, I will provide a third analogy -- the magnetic railroad. It appears necessary since for someone to understand the quantum idea, an understanding of the kind of snap from one sticky position on the quantum ladder and the quick movement to a new sticky ladder rung that is required. To understand the quantum ladder, picture a stretch of railroad tracks and one of those little one-man cars that move by the man pumping a lever. Now picture a really strong magnet bolted to the car with the north pole of the magnet pointing down toward the tracks and picture similar magnets bolted to the railroad ties with their south poles pointing up. Now complete the picture by adding to the analogy the fact that the ground the tracks run over is not level but is sloping and the distance between the railroad ties can vary. Just picture the one-man car between two of the railroad ties on a slope. In this analogy the magnets are very strong and the distance between the two ties is such that the car is always attracted to one or the other railroad tie even if he lets go of the lever while on a slope. When the man tries to move his little car from the lower tie (representing zero volts) he has to push really hard on the lever and just when he overcomes the force of the magnets holding him on the lower tie he is quickly propelled up the slope and quickly captured by the magnet of the upper railroad tie. Note that the points above the ties are 'sticky' and the man can let go of the lever and the car will be held by the magnets to a position above one of the tie magnets even on a slope. If you have ever tried to pull two magnets apart or put them together you would have noticed that the action kind of snaps quickly apart or together. Digital electronics works that way in that the circuitry tries to snap the signal to the zero volt state or five volt state. The effect is to make a gradual wave with peaks and troughs convert into a 'square' wave and the switching between states is so quick that it can appear like a series of dashes separated vertically. That the car was really on all of the track between the lower and upper tie is the analog reality, but that the 'snapping' action of the magnets make it appear that most of the actual time was at either the lower or upper tie with the time between ties negligible. The data and logic of digital electronics becomes simplified by this action and the ability to consider just the two states -- zero and five volts -- and the resultant logic states that correspond -- 'zero' or 'off' at zero volts -- and 'one' or 'on' at five volts. The circuitry of the digital device acts like the magnets and creates the 'sticky' areas of 0 and 5 volts -- in this case the only rungs of the ladder. All of physics can be understood with a similar analogy by rotating the railroad track and car vertically to form a ladder with the energy states of atoms and electromagnetic waves as the car snapping between rungs on the ladder. The sky appears blue to us because the action of the energy of sunlight on atoms of gasses in the upper atmosphere that are continually shifting between two particular states in such a way that when the energy level finally reaches a higher state due to the rising energy from the sunlight, it snaps back to the lower level as it releases an energy wave (or quantum -- a 'photon' in this case) at the wavelength of blue and the effect is as if little blue lights were continually turning on all through the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Other colors of light are created at the same time but are more affected by diffraction than the blue light. The internal combustion engines we use for transportation are powered by the release of energy in the form of heat when the chemical bonds between atoms change state to 'snap' from a rung on the ladder with a higher energy state or 'rung' on the ladder to a lower 'rung' through the action of the ignition spark which releases an amount of energy in the form of heat (the quantum or energy between the two states) to set the atoms to a lower state of the chemical bonding energy. The heat causes the air in the cylinder in an auto engine to expand and move a piston while the expanding air in a jet engine causes the propelling force to move the airplane itself. There are 'weak' and 'strong' forces and bonds in chemistry and physics and nuclear energy that can be understood with different elements representing different rungs on the ladder. The forces involved in the gravity fields of stars and their related changes in energy states such as novas and supernovas 'snap' up or down to different energy levels to produce the different elements of the periodic table. Iron and nickel represent the lowest states of energy level and it takes a lot of energy input to force the atoms to snap together into elements heavier than iron and nickel -- this energy stored in the bonds would be released if you could 'unstick' them from the heavier ladder rung and 'stick' them to a lower ladder rung and doing so would release the energy in the form we call 'fission'. Similarly elements smaller than iron and nickel would release energy if you provide the force to 'snap' them together into a heavier element -- this is 'fusion'. Most elements are in a stable state that would require the forces of stars to split or fuse them but there are some that are less stable and radioactive. Radioactive elements are normally splitting on their own over time and in the case of uranium and plutonium, a 'critical' mass of enough of these normally splitting atoms pressed together can cause a chain reaction that speeds up the splitting into a nuclear explosion. But using the analogy of the car on the railroad tracks with the corresponding magnets, it should be understood that the strengths of the magnets in this case would be very, very strong and the speed the car would be going when it finally 'snapped' from the railroad tie it was stuck to would correspond to the energy released or required to change states. And the chain-reaction would be the cars bumping into other cars and more and more cars 'unstuck' and releasing much energy. A hydrogen bomb can be understood as a series of 'snaps' of atoms from higher energy states or rungs on the quantum ladder to lower energy states or rungs on the ladder with a very high release of energy (in the case of a hydrogen bomb both fission and fusion take place). In this case, the electrical energy of the bombs arming or ignition circuit sets off plastic explosives (changing some of the weaker bond energy states of chemical bonds) resulting in plutonium being forced inward to create a critical mass of normally splitting atoms which generate enough heat (by breaking the stronger nuclear bonds -- 'fission') to compress the uranium mass inside the plutonim core which in turn releases enough energy to create the energy levels in the center of the bomb to 'fuse' the hydrogen center by the formation of helium from hydrogen releasing energy in 'fusion'.
The examples above illustrate the quantum ladder relating to physics. Similar ladder rungs with living things obey similar laws which have them moving between rungs of the ladder and continually sticking and unsticking. I cannot explain the living ladder rungs and the interactions as easily as the physics examples above but the ladder is still there. Consider drops of water from a water faucet that has a leaking seal or is not quite closed. The amount of water it takes to make a drop of water form and then drop is a form of a quantum. In this case it is the weight of the water pulled down by the force of gravity but 'stuck' to the lip of the faucet by surface tension until a critical mass is reached. The drops are not random sizes but under normal conditions it is always 24 drops to form a mililiter of water. Surface tensions, capillary action, and other not quite understood forces in living creatures influence the formation of all living things. The fibonacci sequences in nature may mathmatically describe the formation of leaves, snowflakes or other repeating sequences, but the actual forces that cause the sequences are some type of 'sticking' and 'releasing' from one state (or ladder rung) to 'stick' in another state in a manner similar to the formation of the drops of water.
Human lives may be understood by continuing to change the analogy of the railroad tracks with the ties as rungs to a kind of really wide staircase which sometimes goes up and at other times goes down and at still other times branches into multiple paths. The relative heights of each step can vary (requiring or releasing energy to go from one step to another) and the length of the horizontal portion of the steps can vary from a short to very long distance between vertical changes creating platforms or levels. We all realize that there is a lower edge to the flat portion we are on that leads to a lower step and similarly we know of higher steps above the one we are presently on. Life begins when you are born and it is like being put through a door that closes behind you and leaves you on a portion of the staircase leading downward. The door is locked behind you and there seems to be a skateboard under your feet and even the flat platform portions of the staircase are sloping downward and really all you can do is proceed downward through the steps. To continue the analogy, if you have a fortunate birth into wealth or whatever type of good fortune, you may have a good set of bearings on your skateboard and a good smooth path on the platform. In other cases the bearings may be poor or there may be some gravel on the surface or even patches of gum or tar to slow you down. In any case you continue proceeding down the staircase and there is no way to turn back. We would all wish there was a magic potion that you could give to a puppy or kitten to make it stop growing. But just as you can't keep a puppy from growing up, humans progress only in one direction through this portion of the staircase -- snapping downward through step after step. Eventually you end up in a large flat area where you can see ascending staircases of all sizes and shapes in the distance with perhaps some recognizable goals seen at the top portion of the staircases that are visible to you. With a fortunate birth the good bearings and smooth path leaves you with some good momentum and perhaps some skill you have picked up allows you to lean properly and aim your speeding skateboard at one of the more desireable goals seen in the distance. Adolescence would correspond to your entry point into this large open area and adulthood would start somewhere on the flat area or up one of the ascending staircases in the distance. Unfortunately at this point in the analogy your skateboard turns into a cart that you have to pull. On this wide plateau or platform area there are some other objects before the ascending stairways and perhaps even on the wide ascending stairways. Each object would correspond to some kind of an 'oasis'. These spots may be just for rest or refreshment but could also be considered places where you could just stop and end the journey. In this case you would be excercising your 'freedom' to avoid the ratrace and you will remain 'stuck' in the oasis. Perhaps if you are lucky you find some friends or family and you have company when pulling your cart or even better you may hook the carts together and all take turns pulling the cart. Perhaps if you are lucky or maybe unlucky, you meet someone of the opposite sex and you hitch your carts together. Here the quantum ladder affect comes into play again in that getting married is like putting the two magnets together and it would seem no real force is needed to connect but conversely -- separating the magnets -- divorce or separation -- would appear to take a lot more force or energy. Ideally both would now pull the wagon together and aim for the same goal but alas that is not always the case in life. Much of the time one is left pulling while the other sits in the cart and perhaps babies are popping out and loading down the cart or someone sitting in the cart is dragging a foot to slow it down even more. The ideal case would have two people with a lot of momentum from a fortunate birth hooking up and pulling together toward the same goal with the encumberances added to the cart sometime after you have ascended a few or most of the steps in the staircase leading to your shared goal. Did I just make a 'moral' analogy? Perhaps some people can't see or don't bother to see the goals in the distance and just drag around their cart in circles or perhaps just settle down on the flat plain and never take one of the ascending paths. Others may look at a group going in one direction and just tag along. Some people seem to have found an elevator to go up rather than to physically drag their carts up to a higher plateau. It appears to be the kind of mixed blessing in life given to us by having different biological capabilities and outcomes due to our varied DNA that no one has the same precision in vision or even has the same strengths when it comes to pulling the cart and getting ourselves and our cart up the ascending steps when and if we reach them. Our varied personalities and capabilities must somehow be connected to the purpose of life and you have to believe that the journey is somehow important.
Now may be a good time to insert entropy into the analogy. Entropy is the law of nature that says that all things tend toward a lower energy state or a less organized state. Just as in the nuclear bonding of elements that iron and nickel are at the lowest energy state, fusion forces rise on the quantum ladder upward from hydrogen toward iron on one side and fission forces build up as the mass of the elements rise on up to uranium on the other end of the ladder. In life the entropy level begins at a level that can only really be described as reverse-entropy. The human cells of an embryo and perhaps up through some point in adolescence are amazing. They are increasing the complexity and organization of the budding human with stem-cells at some incredible stage of functioning to create cells for the nerves and brain as well as all the organs, muscles, and skeleton of the growing human. Hopefully the programming of the brain through experience and study as well as the tuning of the muscles toward a proficiency in coordination produces an acceptable specimen of humanity. The progress through school is in steps snapping upward with elementary, secondary, and the levels of college with associate, bachelor, masters, and phd (perhaps each requiring their own little 'quantum' of mental energy or monetary energy). If you are working the pay levels correspondingly snap up to higher levels as the level of education increases. At some point though the increasing complexity and organization of reverse-entropy ends and hopefully there is a suitably long interval before the entropy of old age begins with the difficulties of deteriation of organs and coordination as well as the reduced funtioning of the brain. We could sure use those stem cells then. In youth the body snaps to the ladder rung of walking and the rungs of talking and the further steps in brain and nerve development continue along with the programming of these biological circuits through experience and education. If you have been following my descriptions of being drawn toward the light of knowledge, an analogy similar to the color of the sky can occur during the educational phase of development. Just as the exitation of the upper atomosphere generates the blue light rays during daylight, the relative brightness of an individual during the education process is similarly described by various words meaning brightness. I enjoy being around the glow of bright people. Later in life, entropy continues when the body snaps to lower levels of energy in the brain when memories fade and the spector of senility approaches or appears. Just as the beginning stages of life appear as irreveribly reverse-entropy in nature, the last stages of life appear to be irreversibly entropic in nature.
Now instead of the picture of the balloon on a map showing where the start and end points were we now have a picture of a wide plateau or open area with a single set of stairs leading down into the open area and a multitude of stairways leading up on the other side. Now you can draw a dotted line indicating the path down the initial decending stairway and depict the wandering and possible path up a particular ascending stairway. Let us now scribble a little more on the map and put an 'x' or two on the dotted lines that indicate significant decision points in a person's life. If you were descibing a recovered alcoholic's journey the dotted line may show a number of circles around an oasis labeled 'alcohol' and an 'x' when the circling stops and the dotted line continues onward. I recently read a book named 'A Primer of Jungian Psychology'. Jung and other psychologists have created a vocabulary of words to describe the stages and developments of the mind or personality. He wrote about the id, ego, and the 'persona' or mask we put on to face the world. He wrote that most people have a 'self-realization' moment, usually in mid life.
I have discussed in other essays the idea that mental decisions are really 'judgements' based on the perceived facts. Think of decisions as mini court cases in your mind and realize that the court case has to consider just the facts brought before it according to the rules of the court -- and perhaps more importantly -- the lawyers' decisions on what facts to argue. But in your mind you are the creator and director of the entire operation and you may make the defendant's lawyer strong and effective or conversely make the plaintiff's lawyer the prevailing one. You may make the judge ask questions or not -- you are the judge -- you are all of the players including the defendant or plaintiff. There, I have made up another analogy -- the mini court case in your mind. Jung may be right about the really big self-evaluation in mid-life (a supreme court case) but I think we have many decision points where we play out a mini court case and come to a decision to put on a 'persona' for instance. Dr. Forshay's quote at the beginning of this essay is an example of a decision he made in life. Simon Newcomb could have decided to follow the doctor's advice and close up the window into his heart -- but apparently he did not. In writing his memoir he was like Christopher Hitchens and following up on a decision that he must have made in life. For Hitchens it was to put himself out there to promote the freedom from the tyranny of religion and for Newcomb it was to write his book and perhaps influence others to seek the freedom of the light of knowledge and science. These decisions in life may be considered 'sticky' rungs in the ladder of life. Like magnets stuck together, Newcomb and Hitchens seemed to have been stuck to their major decisions in life. Celebrities in the entertainment area that have overdosed on drugs could be described as 'stuck' as in quicksand -- to their particular addictions. I can think of a few politicians that seem to be 'stuck' on the quantum ladder rung where they decided on their particular ideology. I have heard the statement that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. If that is true then consider that the mugging is the quantum (or energy required) to move his mind to the 'ladder rung' of conservatism.
I would like to insert a note here on my use of the word 'analogy'. I struggled with myself (in a mini court case) between using the word 'analogy' or the word 'allegory' as in Plato's allegory of the cave. Wikipedia indicated that I could use the phrase 'conceptual metaphor' as a substitute for analogy but that seemed cumbersome. One of the little lawyers in my head reminded me that as a young adult I had a subscription to a science fiction magazine -- Analog -- I should use it since I used to like the stories. In an outburst a spectator reminded the court of a memory of a disgruntled reader of Analog complaining in the letters section of Analog. He wrote that he was in smallest room in his home and that he had the magazine in front of him but it would soon be used behind him. The judge ruled the outburst as out of order and demanded order in the courtroom. The strange looking lawyer for 'allegory' said that Wikipedia said that in Late Antiquity Martianus Capella organized all the information a fifth-century upper-class male needed to know into an allegory of the wedding of Mercury and Philologia (sometimes called Philology), with the seven liberal arts as guests; Capella's allegory was widely read through the Middle Ages. The judge was nearly swayed by this argument since this essay has become rather as long as Capella's.
Wikipedia's definition of allegory
Finally the handsome and brilliant lawyer for the defense (of using 'analogy' -- my first choice) described to the court that Wikipedia also had an illustration showing how Neils Bohr used the 'analogy of the solar system' to describe the structure of the atom. His argument prevailed as a picture is perhaps worth a thousand words.
Wikipedia's definition Niels Bohr's model for the atom.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what the 'quantum ladder of life' means. I now understand why some of the people in my life seem 'stuck' in their situations -- there is a kind of freedom from the strife of trying to get to another perceived 'better' situation -- they just stop -- perhaps only intending a short break -- but put down roots in an oasis.
I have told my family that when I die, I want to be cremated and that my ashes should be sprinkled into the Great Salt Lake so that I will be recycled into food for the brine shrimp. It is possible that they will do this but they probably don't realize all of my reasoning behind the wish. If you have been on the site you know I have had a lot of fish and in my own little triple-entendre -- I sometimes call myself the ancient mariner. I have caught or bought and fed hundreds of pounds of brine shrimp (a marine animal) to my fish. It is not just that I want to be useful and perhaps end up in some show specimens in someone's aquarium. Just think of the one defining feature of the behavior of the brine shrimp throughout their entire lives -- they are normally in water and continually striving to reach the light.
Wikipedia's definition of Brine Shrimp
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