Q: What do these three things have in common?
A: They all raise questions regarding the role of the observer in shaping reality.
In the field of quantum physics there is a hypothetical experiment involving a cat-in-a-box. Also at play are the theories of entanglement and superposition, which would require more than this blog or my liberal arts brain to properly explain.
The pertinent question presented by Schrödinger’s thought experiment is this: do all possibilities exist simultaneously until an observation forces the reality into an either-or state? In other words, does the mere act of observation affect the outcome?
With the falling tree, science would say that it does make a sound in the form of vibrating air particles that can be quantitatively measured, but from a philosophical perspective, if no one was there to measure or perceive the event, did it happen at all?
In the case of the uninhibited dancer, it was the absence of a witness that resulted in different behavior, suggesting how much a “judging” observer can negatively influence the subject.
Let’s conduct our own experiment
Notice your breath. How far down in your chest does it go? Continue to observe your breath while slowly counting to ten.
What happened? Did you naturally deepen your breath? Did your upper body relax, even a little? Note: that wasn’t part of the directions. Yet a brief period of self-observation possibly shifted your breathing pattern.
Harder than it looks
Observation may appear passive, but like active listening, it takes more effort than meets the eye. The ability to observe objectively is one of the first steps in the scientific method as it is in the path to gaining greater self-awareness. Arguably both roads can lead to enlightenment, but whoever said that was easy? The hard part is in slowing down our assumptions and sustaining a genuine curiosity long enough for our senses to gather reliable data.
Yet worth it
To recap, whether it’s the cat, tree, dancer or your breath, the quality of observation matters. We can influence our world simply by noticing it sans judgment.
What might be worth your unbiased attention just now?
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