“any measurement of a property of a particle can be seen as acting on that particle (e.g. by collapsing a number of superimposed states); and in the case of entangled particles, such action must be on the entangled system as a whole. It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair “knows” what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances.” From Wiki

To our waking selves, the question “what is dreaming,” provides us with one of the most useful ways to recognize seemingly naturally occurring boundaries and divisions. It is worth noting that in dream states I do not recall ever questioning the nature of waking states. Putting aside for the moment lucid dream states, how different my dreaming self appears to my waking self comes from the waking recognition that both states, separate and distinct, co-exist.

Lower South Falls, OR

Distinction, definition, identity, and notions of ourselves and others can not be made without narrowing down and separating into parts ourselves and others. Just as the dream world is hard to conjoin to the waking world, it is difficult to hold the particularity of anything alongside an integrated state it participates in. Any focus on particular ideas or things – an act of separation itself, seems to blur the edges into a peripheral vision. Perhaps this can be likened to the idea in physics* of entanglement. Are we waves, particles, or both?

A symbolic representation of a biphoton (a pair of entangled photons)

I find it comforting that physicists now understand waves and particles to be descriptions of different states of things dependent on the perspective of the observer. These states may also describe our human predicament of trying to measure what exists in motion. Intuitively, I have always felt myself to be part of a bigger whole, but the nature of some particulars, like the difference between dreaming and waking states, seem to detract from the seamlessness in ways that cannot be ignored. The temptation to draw conclusions remains.

In Robert Moss’s book, The Secret History of Dreaming, he writes about the many ways that dreaming has been understood, whether as prophetic warnings, time or astral travel, or tools for psychological transformation, dreaming has played a significant role across time, place and culture. Through technology, we moderns now gain a birds-eye view of history and past cultures in a desensitizing way that tempts us to feel removed, post-modern. And so, I often remind myself that we are part of the whole human story, and that paradoxically, the fractured sense of culture experienced today, as technology shakes us up like a snow globe, is itself an acculturation, albeit a sometimes disorienting one.

Perhaps though, fracturing itself engenders a sense of unity, as unity and wholeness remain phenomenologically ungraspable, but intuitively and ultimately real.

When technology is used to reproduce a picture digitally, the greater the fracturing, the less the particulars are seen, the clearer and more whole the picture appears. So, what to make of the nature of the world then, is it digital or analog, or do the terms simply fail us, or perhaps merge together?

Maybe the two distinct perspectives feed each other, and that feeding enriches our experience of particularity into the ability to intuit whole and unified states. There is no war between them, as physics shows us that particle and wave behavior depend entirely on how we view and measure them. Likewise, I wouldn’t want to suggest that homogenization is some sort of goal and that stirring the pot into a well-blended soup will cure all ills. If the universe shows us nothing else, it shows us variety through multiplicity and diversification.

Comets Kick up Dust in Helix Nebula

Where am I going with this? Inspired by a discussion on the nature of consciousness in a podcast on Skeptiko, between host Alex Tsakiris and scientist Bernardo Kastrup, which synchronized nicely with a post entitled “Who Are We,” by Michael, who blogs at Embracing Forever, a resolution for me, where before there was none, seems to be taking shape. But, there you have it, look quickly while it’s a particle and remember that the wave is not affected, or is it? …and what I see, each moment and stop to describe, is but a glimpse.

But does it matter to know this, and if so, in what ways?

Perhaps in our ongoing struggles to be a human family that gets along, we can recognize the validity of both states, respecting that we are continually moving between their different perspectives.

We may not only be living in the world, but as well, may be shaping it with every thought, breath, birth, death, movement or stillness that becomes us. Not only in the usual sense of shaping the world through public activity, but through a web of consciousness that creates and embraces us and every “thing.” From the tiniest particle, to universes unknown, we continue to sense separation to the extent that our ability to filter, through our embodied senses, allows. And even in filtering, Bernardo suggests that through our sharing of this web of consciousness, to some extent, and not always equally, we share the burdens of each instance of life ever to have taken form. The implication then, is that we are truly in it together, for better and, of course, for worse.

 *To be fair, I claim only a scant lay person’s knowledge of quantum physics and you are free to make of the comparison of the behavior of the quanta with psychological states what you will.