Arguing to Convince

    If you are like me, you wonder: “How can happiness be considered wrong?”   Upon reading the two articles; I found myself strangely detached.  Are they right?  Is happiness, as defined by our modern society, an empty gesture?  To answer these questions I am forced to invoke the oldest theme known to mankind and to shake at its foundation.  The duality of life is apparent in all facets: light and dark, empty and full, known and unknown, man and women, material and metaphysical, love and hate, and happiness and sadness.  Happiness cannot be found without suffering.  Just as light cannot be found without a shadow.  These are the topics I will ignore.  Instead, I will take the route less traveled and attack the very underpinnings of our believes not just in happiness, but in what it means to simply exist. 
    What better way to start talking about existence than to talk about vision.  Modern color theory tells us that color does not exist inside an object.  Color is simply an attribute created by the human eye.  Imagine you are holding and apple.  Our eyes decode what is “out there”, simplifies it, and our brain compiles the series of informative (or waves) that bombard our vision.  If we were to take this apple to another person; they would, in all likelihood, agree with us that it was, in fact, both “there” and “red”.  Would you believe me if I told you that you were mistaken? 
    According to modern quantum physical theories; there is no way to prove that the apple is truly in that position.  The apple exists in a potential form, everywhere at once, until the observer views it.  Whereupon the potentiality of the wave function (or the apple) collapses into a seemingly singular entity and conforms to the rules of any particle.  However, when not viewed, to expands back into a wave form.  This may sound like new age bullshit to you, but there is proof.  In the early nineteenth century, Thomas Young did an experiment, now famous, called the two-slit experiment; wherein they shot several particles through two slits and recorded the interference pattern.

    As we all know, a particle is a unit of matter, like an electron, and has a weight.  A wave is an electromagnetic field, such as light, and has no weight.  So, figure a is the interference pattern caused by a wave.  Figure b is the interference pattern created by particles.  If you are having trouble seeing the pictures:  the wave interference pattern looks like several lines with a gradient decay caused by the waves hitting each other.  The particle interference pattern ends up being two stark lines with no gradient decay, or relatively solid in density.  Okay the dry science is out of the way, lets focus on the fun results.
    A funny thing happens when you do this experiment at the quantum level.  When you shoot electrons (particles) through the two slits you get, not a particle interference pattern, but a wave interference pattern.  To understand the results, you have to understand that this is revolutionary.  The single electron leaves as a particle, becomes a wave of potentials, goes through both slits, and interferes with itself.  Mathematically, this is even stranger; it goes through both slits, and it goes through neither.  This causes us to ask a question “Which path could the electron have taken through this two-path apparatus?”  With the two options, it’s just a matter of standard classical logic: “A,” “B,” both, neither.  These scientists when through those possibilities one at a time, with a separate experiment for each case.  The answer to each of the four cases was negative.  So, does it make sense to ask the question, “Which route did it take?”  The answer is, yet again, no.  It somehow makes no sense to even ask this question.  In the same vein as asking, “Is the Number 5 a bachelor?”  The answer is not yes or no, it is simply an illogical question because the number 5 cannot possibly be married or not married.  It is simply the wrong question to ask.
    Being understandably confused, the scientists then decided to observe which route the particle took by recording the experiment.  The results were amazing: when observed; the particle acted as a normal particle does, and produced the solid non-gradient interference pattern.  So, the very act of observing made the particle go through one slit and not both.  The particle decided to act differently, as though it was aware it was being watched.  This is a hard concept to wrap your mind around, I know.  This implies that when you are not looking, your apple could be in the corner of the room, or it could be all around the room, so to speak.  However, when you choose to observe the apple, it appears to be where it is.
    What the hell does this all have to do with happiness?  Good question.  It helps to bare in mind that the modern definition of happiness in America is a purely material one.  The notion that by acquiring particular things, we will become happy.  While this theory has done wonders for our economy, it has not helped us with our real yearnings.  While most would not admit it, I believe everyone is searching for who they really are – their identity.  This void within cannot be filled by an iPod or a new refrigerator.  This void can only be filled with enlightenment.  Enlightenment of ones standing in the universe. 
    Now that I have explained that particles are like waves, and exist in a potential form at any given time.  I want you to understand that you yourself are in fact made of particles.  Everything you touch is a particle, everything you buy is composed of particles, this very sheet of paper is composed solely of particles.  Alright, now that you have at least acknowledged this, I want you to imagine a world without borders, without time or space.  Because that is where we exist in “reality”.   In the spirit of brevity, I will omit listing the famous arguments for the nonexistence of time and space, and simply refer you to outside resources as to not “bore the crap out of you.”  Google “Entanglement” to learn the specifics of why there is no space, only the illusion of space.  Google “time reversal symmetry” to learn the specifics of why there is no time, only the illusion of time.  In both cases ignore the Wikipedia results.  Or, as an alternative, just use the sources from my bibliography.
    Is the fact that we exist in a series of possibilities so outlandish?  After all, your mind is creating multiple possibilities in your subconscious.  The superposition of possibilities are in your subconscious.  I mean, you may be consciously aware of them, but they exist, I think in superposition of multiple possibilities which, after a while, will collapse to one or the other.  Much like when we plan some event for the future and imagine ourselves doing this act while we are in fact not.   
    All of this leads me to believe that true happiness is in the search for understanding of oneself.  Which, should lead you to a better understanding of reality in its totality.  Schumaker and Csikszentmihalyi believe that happiness is found not through material wealth, but through the social connectedness that we all strive for.  This relates a posteriori to my claim that we are all connected in some sense.  Meaning, once experienced; it should be understandable to you.

Sources Cited
Schombert, James.  21st century Science. Accessed July 22, 2008.                         .
DevX. Jupitermedia Corporation. Accessed July 22, 2008.
Baez, John C. “The Physical Basis of the Direction of Time by H. D. Zeh Book Review”
Bub, Jeffrey, “Quantum Entanglement and Information”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of     Philosophy (Spring 2006 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Accessed July 22, 2008.            .
Schumaker, John F. In Search of Happiness: Understanding an Endangered State of Mind.         Auckland: Penguin New Zealand, 2006.
Csikszentmihalyi , Mihaly. “If We Are So Rich, Why Aren’t We Happy?” American     Psychologist Oct. 1999:821-27

Leave a Comment