Opinion Editorial

THE GIFT BOX

by James Strauss

 

Erwin Schrodinger (the purported publisher of the Geneva Shore Report) invented the “cat in the box” mind experiment to illustrate the concept of quantum mechanics to a layperson. In his experiment, a cat is placed in a box along with a radioactive sample, a Geiger counter and a bottle of poison. The box is then sealed. If the Geiger counter detects that the radioactive material has decayed, it will trigger the smashing of the bottle of poison, and the cat will be killed. The experiment was designed to illustrate the flaws of the “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum mechanics, which states that a particle exists in all states at once, until observed. The Copenhagen interpretation suggests that the radioactive material can have simultaneously decayed, and not decayed, in the sealed environment. Thus it follows that the cat, too, can be both alive and dead until the box is opened. It is opening the box that causes what we call “reality” to result. Quantum mechanics is the science of explaining, and hypothesizing about the micro world of things smaller than atoms. Although these extremely tiny bits, when coming together, make up everything we know and are, the causes of the effects they come together to create can be counterintuitive. It doesn’t add up that the cat in the box is both living and dead, just waiting to be discovered.
Common sense tells us that the cat in the experiment is already dead or alive, before the box is opened.

Schrodinger's cat

Christmas is here once again, and it is a wonderful time of year. Gifts will be given across the length and breath of cultures around the world which include gift giving as a major part of the holiday celebration. Millions will be spent not only on the gifts themselves, but also on the boxes and decorative papers used to cover the boxes and hide what is inside them. To the recipients of this Christmas largesse, those boxes might just as well all have metaphorical cats inside of them. There is no way to know what is inside the gift boxes without opening them and finding out. As with Schrodinger’s experiment, the act of opening the boxes does not determine what’s inside of them. Although the result is beyond the box opener’s capability to either influence or know, (as long as the gift is not something pre-determined, or chosen by the gift-giver, from a short list provided by the gift-opener).

All humans live in fear of the results, of finding out what’s inside such metaphorical boxes, cats and gifts aside. Humans live almost all of their lives with, or surrounded by, considerable amounts of trepidation and fear. If a normal person’s bank account is low, it is not uncommon for the owner of the account to stop checking to see what the balance is for fear that the account will be overdrawn. It is also not uncommon, especially during the holidays, for a cardholder to fail to check an account balance before using (and possibly being declined) a credit card. Many Fridays are lived in apprehension by employees afraid that afternoon will be their last on the job. Why don’t people check such things to reduce their trepidation and fear? Schrodinger’s “Observer Effect” does not take into account the emotions of the person who’s has to open either the experimental box with the cat inside it, check on financial accounts, or even open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. When humans don’t know the answers, with respect to the potential result of almost any unrevealed situation, the most common reaction is anxiety or fear. That’s part of life in a universe where entropy (everything in the universe eventually moves from order to disorder, and entropy is the measurement of that change) has a very real effect on everything. What’s in the box? Will the unknowable result be something good (like the cat being alive when the box is opened, as long as that cat is not some huge predator)? Or will the contents inside the box be revealed to be something bad (like the same tie in a slightly different shade as last year)?

The neat thing about Christmas presents is that they come free of charge, and usually contain a happy surprise in some way or other, no matter what the potential contents or results waiting to be revealed are. While they sit there under the tree, the outcome of opening can be delayed, and yet imagined with a sense of hopeful expectation. Fear is a powerful emotional force that is held in abeyance for most, while the days and nights before Christmas inexorably draw to a climatic end. Life is filled with so many metaphorical boxes, endlessly being opened by all of us, and endlessly supplying results we evaluate, and consider some to be good and some to be bad. Christmas presents are not metaphorical. For those who receive them, they are real, and no matter what the content, all of them were boxed up with care, concern, and a good bit of love. Open your presents on Christmas with a great smile, no matter what the state of the “cat” you might be receiving.

Pack your gifts with care this Christmas, and wrap them with tissue embedded with loving attention. Open your gifts with a joyful heart, for love will come out of the box before you get to the gift. It is said that life is really all about the journey, as humans can’t remember the start and most don’t get to remember the end. The adventure of the journey is interlaced with the emotions experienced along the way, and one of the wonderful things about the Christian tradition of Christmas is that it is all about the emotions of love, care, compassion and sharing. The gifting is all about the sharing, and has little to do with the commercialization normally attributed to it.
Make, find or buy gifts, and give them with love.
Accept them the same way.
Your cat if you have one, or get one in a box,
will enjoy it as much as you do.   ~James Strauss

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