Friday Exercise – We’re All Mad Here

I’ve had a series of interesting discussions (based around quantum mechanics) this week which have touched on the orderly/chaotic nature of the universe, the nature of consciousness and/or linear time, probability and the multiverse, and, well, to be Douglas Adams about it, Life, the Universe, and Everything.

This in itself is good fuel for the fiction fire, especially if you lean toward speculative fiction (as I do).  Gets the gears of imagination turning (yes, I know I just mixed metaphors, but it was in two separate sentences and this is an informal blog post, not high literature, okay?) and sparks all kinds of ideas (maybe the gears of imagination have little metal shavings rattling around which are fire hazards, which would make all three of the metaphors I’ve now mixed in these two sentences tie together into one cohesive and acceptable metaphor).

Anyway, there is plenty of inspiration to be had from reading/discussing quantum theory, but even without getting into the complex and confusing scientific end of things, I love a good long look at different perceptions of reality.  Are events random and coincidences meaningless, or are they shaped somehow?  If they’re shaped, what shapes them?  A divine being, a sub-cellular connection of some sort, the influence of a conscious universe trying to work through an identity crisis?  Is there predestiny?  Is it easy to alter the course of events, with one tiny decision changing the whole world through a ripple effect?  Or does reality re-align itself, pulling in other little coincidences to re-stablize what was thrown off?

For that matter, concepts as simple as pessimism and optimism are realities that we live in or fight against.  In the same world, we have people who function from a reality in which all good things are possible with a little kindness and effort, and others who function from a reality in which all things have an ulterior motive and the best you can hope for is to avoid falling into traps by being naive about how devious the world in general really is.  Sounds like two different worlds entirely – and yet, it’s just two different perceptions of the same thing.  And neither is entirely right nor entirely wrong.

So with all this kind of thing in mind, pick two viewpoints on reality which, at least on the surface, completely contradict each other.  Now, assume that both these viewpoints are entirely correct, and that they’re both entirely incorrect.  Free write about it, just mulling it over to yourself.  Or if characters come to you – one conflicted character who is faltering between these two viewpoints, or has a simultaneous belief in both; two characters at odds with each other because they have opposing viewpoints, or two characters who have opposing perspectives but still get along, balancing each other – then give your characters a scene to play out.  Or if it gives you an idea for an entire plot, start writing it and let this clash of ideas be the theme behind the story.


5 thoughts on “Friday Exercise – We’re All Mad Here

  1. I think the ability to hold two contradictory ideas as true at the same time is what Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. called a chronosyclastic infundibulum. It’s what I call bat-shit crazy, and, at the same time, normal.

  2. Just last weekend I told my husband I want to be an electron when I grow up — this was after I learned that an electron is both a particle /and/ a wave!!! (P.S. Hi, I’m a friend of Sarah Comb’s — she linked to here from her FB! )

    @Marian – Thank you for the reminder that I need to re-read Sirens of Titan, post-haste!

    • Welcome! What gets me about the wave/particle thing is the observer effect – the fact that subatomic particles can’t be measured for a precise momentum AND a precise location (it’s either/or), that when you measure for one the particle behaves as one thing, and if you measure for the other, it behaves as the other. It’s a little creepy!

      I haven’t read Sirens of Titan, although I’m a huge fan of Vonnegut…I will have to look into it. 🙂

  3. Yes, the observer effect — have you heard/read about the studies done at the PEAR lab at Princeton (which closed in 2007) “The enormous databases produced by PEAR provide clear evidence that human thought and emotion can produce measurable influences on physical reality. The researchers have also developed several theoretical models that attempt to accommodate the empirical results, which cannot be explained by any currently recognized scientific model.”

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