Quantum Parenting

There was a recent piece in The New Yorker, “Dream Machine:  The mind-expanding world of quantum computing,” by Rivka Galchen in which she meets with David Deutsch who she dubs the founding father of quantum computing.

Yet when it comes to quantum anything, I want to know not who’s my daddy, but rather who’s my mommy?

Deutsch, who lives eccentrically on the outskirts of Oxford, applies quantum mechanics to computing; the point being to create computers much more powerful than we have now, and with much less hardware.  The magic turns on creating quantum “bits” which are the basic placeholders for computing—a spot that can either be a one or a zero.  Based on this simple, yes/no or positive/not-positive, construct, one can do all the “magical” things we do with computers (and none of the truly magical things that make life most worth living).  In fact, if they crack the quantum code of computing, they will be able to crack the toughest, nearly impossible, math-questions that create so-called “security.”  Then those with the power will know all the money and weapons secrets, I suppose, but they still won’t have a clue about how to truly live and love.

What makes something “quantum,” is the possibility of a single (formerly yes/no) “bit” being both positive and negative.  Science-oriented readers may be aware that one of the more the mind-blowing things to come out of quantum physics last century was the discovery that if one studies incoming photons (light emanating from the sun) one will find a wave if one looks for a wave, but if one decides to look for a particle—voila, one finds a particle.  Energy or matter, that is the question; yet one is the other, depending on how you choose to look at it.

Enter chance, randomness and how the gaze (intentionality) determines outcome.  On the whacky fringe of this sort of thinking are the “manifesters,” those who preach visualizing the perfect life to make it come about—and offer to sell you The Secret.  In this universe there does appear to be a sucker born every minute.  Perhaps the key problem here is the question of whose optimal life?  The ego wants things the way a child wants candy rather than vegetables (even if sugar ends up a profitable toxin); perhaps the deepest Self truly wants what it has (and perhaps this is why it is so difficult to change it by way of will and visualization).  Want what you have, on the other hand, and you have instant happiness and harmony—and then situations are free to change themselves, lessons having been learned.

On the Shadow side of seemingly irrational science are the quantum deniers—those who count and measure everything and believe if they cannot measure it, surely it must not exist.  Good luck to those realists finding true love, much less anything more esoteric than the price of gold.  They are always right, and never happy.  And can we wish love for both the realists and the dreamers?  Can we imagine that both are right, and both are us?

Quantum physics truly is challenging to the rational mind (the mind that has brought us the world as we currently experience it); quantum findings prompted Einstein himself to famously say that God doesn’t play dice with the universe.  But what if “God” (the god of whatever actually just IS) is the universe (a universe which a number of the quantum folks now conceptualize as a “many worlds” multiverse)?  Then perhaps everything is true—somewhere in the cosmic float, just not at the same time to our limited, incarnate, egocentric consciousness.

Perhaps where the quantum boys lose the scent is when they conceptualize the universe itself as a quantum computer.  While the universe seems quantum enough to me, the “computer” is a machine concept, and the universe, like an animal or a human being, is not a machine.  We might make machines (meaning something not alive, that we may try to make as “smart” as possible, but still it is not alive), yet when we think ourselves, or the universe a machine, we have just made a Father God at best and at worst a monster, maybe a bride for Dr. Frankenstein… and it will always turns out to lack true compassion, authentic spontaneity and a mother’s ability to make us feel better in the here and now—and it will lack ultimate intelligence.

In some old-school made new sense, a “quantum computer” is a potential oracle—a way of divining or consulting the mysterious forces that lie beyond the grasp of our limited perception.  From the Torah, to the Oracle at Delphi, to the I Ching and the Tarot, humans have long possessed ways of divining, but they also possess “reason” which stands in opposition to occult ways of “seeing.”  In some ways it seems as if the rational/science perspective is about to emerge, after much tunneling, to find itself where the mystical has always been:  in the eternal mystery of the here and now.

Turning to parenting, and hoping to transcend our fears and desires through engaging this (and every aspect of life) more quantumly, I float the idea that our children can be thought of in a more quantum way:  rather than good student/not good student; or luminous sacred spirit/expensive and mouthy pain in the ass, we might think BOTH.  And if we do not gaze too hard, if we do not fix our child (or friend, boss, lover or stranger) with the need to pin down, know and judge, perhaps we open up a fluid, trickstery universe in which anything can indeed happen… so long as we let it.

While we will continue to feed our kids, pick them up, take them to appointments, educate, employ consequences, bestow love, lose our tempers and everything else we think, feel, say and do… perhaps we can throw a little fairy-dice-dust into the mix.  Maybe a perspective by which we no longer run to where we think we want to go, but rather locate ourselves exactly where we wish to be through encountering, engaging and embracing whatever arises (be it mood, task, challenge, trick or treat).

Then we can imagine that our connections, our relationships, with each other allow for an infinite array of possible configurations (in some sense all happening somewhere right now).  Then, instead of trying to game the universe, we can consider the possibility that the die is cast in terms of what has been (our parentage, DNA, past experiences) but is rather wide open moving forward.  By loosening our need to know, much less choose, the outcome, we soften our gaze and our hearts.

From a soft and open place, a child-mind place that doesn’t trouble itself with cracking the code of the very universe that gives rise to us (in concert with us gazing back at it to crystallize the masculine-ruled Apollo light into feminine-ruled Mother Goddess “matter”), and our ever-fluxing situations, we are safe and free to truly learn and grow organically toward a fuller blossoming of Self (which is a soul, and not ego, endeavor).

Attachment theory tells us that some of our worst “problems,” in terms of lacking trust and becoming freaked out, stem from experiencing our caregivers as both comforting (they fed us and didn’t allow us to perish) and terrifying (due to their own unresolved traumas).  In quantum terms, our caregivers may have been two things at once—and while that may have made us timid, neurotic or maladapted to the world that has been, maybe, just maybe, it will prove the perfect foundation for the world emerging around and between us as we let go of the outcome, the gaming and striving and instead connect with our kids, and each other, in a soft multiplicity of possibility.

So, whether this makes much sense to the rational mind or not, let’s dedicate our willingness to allow ambivalence, ambiguity, chance, uncertainty and the challenge of the opposites to take us to a softer, blurrier, less exacting sort of love, one that has plenty of psychic space for all our collective children.

Namaste, BD

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4 Responses to “Quantum Parenting”

  1. Mark Says:

    Bruce, a friend of mine at Stanford builds robots using AI in his spare time. His current “offspring” is named Pi. Pi is several developmental iterations removed from HAL. Pi has heart.

    What’s become clear to me is that it is us who mostly make the meaning, most often through projection and transference, in our relationships with people and pets. We will also be doing it with our bots in the VERY near future. Don’t believe me, spend some time with Pi. Pi has heart because he has baraka. His creator and I imbue him with it. No, he’s not yet as warm and fuzzy as my wife, but he’s a MUCH better contingent/collaborative communicator than my dog Bodie! I can easily imagine me forgetting he’s not “real” in the not so distant future, but loving and appreciating him for his extraordinary thoughtful kindness and brilliant, instant factual knowledge.

  2. Laura Says:

    You have summed up so well what’s in my heart as I parent, try to understand new information in fields such as physics and neuroscience, attempt to meditate, let go of spiritual preconceptions, ride out various life traumas, and simply be in a state of loving awareness. Thank you. There’s so much wisdom in this piece I’m printing it out to re-read and savor.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    Bruce, my friend, you make me feel sorry (for the first time perhaps) that I never studied physics.

    I deeply appreciate what you have to say here about the possibilities that exist for our children – and, indeed, for each of us – if we simply get out of their/our way. I’ve been interested for some time in the notion of “free-range parenting,” though it’s tempered by my lingering concern that I want to give my children every possibility opportunity. (What if I never get them sousaphone lessons and that turns out to be their life’s calling?!) I think of your ideas here as a sort of middle path, one that I hope to walk: “By loosening our need to know, much less choose, the outcome, we soften our gaze and our hearts.”

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    So much to think about here, as usual, Bruce. I love the combination of “an infinite array of configurations,” and also the notion of simultaneously (quantumly?) focusing and blurring our vision. Perhaps of everything.

    If we lived in a world of less this-or-that, them-or-thus, black-or-white – with each other and our perspectives, how much freer we would be, being.

    This is a destination that seems only possible in a dream state, to me – and yet in that dream state, I can experience it, like music – harmony. Who knows, maybe we’ll take to harmonic or symphonic interrelating, or at the very least, parenting.

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