There is a thought experiment in the world of quantum physics called Schrödinger's cat. It was originally proposed in 1935 by Erwin Schrödinger and is intended to illustrate a paradox formed by being an observer of the subatomic world. Subatomic particles, such as photons, can behave as both particles and waves. It is not until they are observed that they can be classified in one form or the other, suitable to fit the needs of the observer.
In the paradox a theoretical cat is placed inside a sealed steel box. A small and ultimately lethal amount of radioactive material is placed inside the box with the cat. There is no way to see inside the box without opening it. There are no windows, no vents, no way to see, hear or otherwise tell if the cat is alive. The only way we can know if the cat is alive or has died because of the radiation is to open the box. While he is sealed in the box the cat is BOTH alive and dead. We cannot know what state he is in until we observe him as either alive or dead. It is therefore possible the cat is simultaneously two things at once, with a foot in each world. The act of opening the box and observing the cat closes one avenue in favor of the other. This is meant to both highlight the fundamental uncertainty at the heart of quantum physics (wave or particle or both) and introduce the problems of observational bias, for the act of observation assigns classification and eliminates the possibility of dual states.
There is a variant on Schrödinger's cat called the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Heisenberg stated that it impossible to truly know both the speed/direction and the position of a particle at any given instant. It is possible to know one and infer or estimate the other, but not possible to know both at the same time with any exactness. Think of it this way - let's say you take two pictures of a hummingbird, one with a high speed camera and one with your iPhone. In the high speed picture you can see the exact location of the hummingbird. You can see all of her feathers, the exact detail of her wings. She is beautiful, but you have no idea of how fast those wings are beating, nor where she is going from just the picture alone. In the iPhone photo, you lose all the detail in favor of an idea of her speed. She is a blur, from which you can infer speed and direction, but not exact position. Like Schrödinger, Heisenberg introduces observational bias - the hummingbird can be in multiple places at the same time, or she can be in one spot, with beauty but no context.
The problems of Schrödinger's and Heisenberg have been on my mind a lot these past three days. For the past two nights I have had an incredibly hard time getting to and staying asleep. Judging by the fact that it is now close to midnight and I am writing about physics and listening to Radiohead suggests that tonight will be just as hard.
It started on Monday night. Something woke me up, but rather than open my eyes I kept them shut. Whatever it was, I had an overwhelming sense that Melly was in bed with me. Opening my eyes to look at her side of the bed would introduce an observational bias, thereby confirming my fear. By instead keeping my eyes closed I could enjoy the superposition of her being there. I was able to go back to sleep, irrational and happy for a time, free from the observational bias.
My dreams of Melly are evolving. For a long time my dreams involved our last day together. They are growing in scope and context. On one hand they are taking on benign topics, closer to "everyday" life, on the other hand their simplicity is making them more powerful.
When I was finally able to sleep last night I dreamed that our lawn guy and I were talking about pulling fruit from the trees. The old oranges are starting to attract raccoons. Melissa walks out of the house in a hurry to get to work. I call to her to come over and talk with us. She does for a time, and then turns to talk directly with me. All else fades away and it is just her voice in my head. The volume has been turned up, doubled, tripled. Her voice and face are all I can see and hear. Like my earlier dreams, I focus in on her eyes. Last night she told me that I have been doing a good job staying busy. She tells me that time and space are 'funny' where she is at, that there are no clocks, and no maps. She says that she is learning how to be in many places, forward and backward in time, all at once. She says that it is very hard work and that she is very tired. Then, like in other dreams, her eyes flash gold and then reflect the light the way that cats eyes do at night. And, like in other dreams, I wake up.
These past two nights, getting to feel her so near, are a gift that I never expected to receive. They are too much to take in at one sitting, for like the Schrödinger and Heisenberg paradoxes, the more I think on them the less certain I become about their meaning. Even now, as I think and write about them, I am afraid that I am introducing too much observational bias to them. By assigning meaning, possibly even by admitting that they exist, I am pinning them down too tightly. As I have said before, the act of giving something a name gives it the power to affect us. I am afraid that by attempting to classify my nighttime psyche will make it go away.
Somebody asked me the other day if I would ever consider leaving the home Melly and I have built together. I honestly don't know if I can. Her presence in this place is so strong for me right now that I don't think I could leave. If I am the cat in Schrödinger's experiment, then leaving this place would mean opening the box and giving up some of the dualities I have discovered. At the same time, if I believe what she has told me in dreams, then she will always be with me regardless of time or place. In that sense we have to embrace the uncertainty and accept the mystery.