Quantum Uncertainty and the Icon of Twelve Blue

The central image of Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue, the locus of travel throughout the fractal narrative, resembles a series of disparate wavelengths composed of innumerable particles. Each wavelength takes the reader to a different narrative, a different individual experience in the cycle of the day, a thought particle. But the wavelengths do not take the reader along the narrative in a linear fashion from story to story. Rather, in trying to follow the story as a traditional narrative, a wave crest, the literary experience is clouded by a surge of different narratives in different times throughout the day. The visual reference of color, wave, and particle in the Twelve Blue icon in conjunction with the temporal experience, the confusion of reading the narrative, parallels the disparate theories of how light behaves at the atomic level, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics. Certain pairings of physical properties cannot both be known at the same time, such as momentum and position in the original statement of the Principle. As particles move at incredible, variable speeds in the atomic or subatomic level, the closer one gets to determining a position the less grasp one has of the direction and speed in which the particle travels, and vice-versa. This is particularly influential on the theory, or lack thereof, of the actual makeup of light as matter: depending on the experiment or circumstance, light and color can be described both accurately and inaccurately as a solid wavelength and a cluster of particles moving in a wave. Do not worry, the idea is just as confusing to the laity as the scholar.

Robert Anton Wilson, science-fiction author and hobby scientist, has given lectures on quantum principles as philosophical questions as well as scientific pursuits. Here he discusses both the confusion and value in pursuing such disparate notions (the visual effects are sometimes painfully corny):

Ultimately, there is great value in the pursuit of the experiment, not just the result, and to engage in experiment can teach more than a simple solution. What keeps the researcher from a greater understanding of the subatomic world is the dogma of Aristotelian logic, as Wilson describes, that any physical property has to be one thing and not another. And so there is the icon of Twelve Blue, bending waves composed of minuscule narrative particles, promising a story with traditional narrative traits that will not be found if the reader looks for it as such. Like light particles, the narrative fractals are constantly moving around each other in space and time, at any moment only experienced as a particle of a seemingly indecipherable whole. But only in engaging in the whole of Twelve Blue, not just the individual waves or particles, in engaging in the experiment of the text can the reader attain its experience. Read, experiment, experience not for the tradition of a narrative wave, or the particularly juicy passage, but for where experience can go.

(For a more in-depth discussion of the principles of Quantum Uncertainty) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heisenberg_uncertainty


~ by benjyblanco on February 15, 2010.

2 Responses to “Quantum Uncertainty and the Icon of Twelve Blue”

  1. Wonderful, Benjy. That video is on point, and I feel as though this entry works towards answering some of the questions that I have, but I am still having trouble conceptualizing all of this in my mind. Most specifically, I would argue that the particularly juicy passage is essential to expanding where experience can go. Anton talks about reality tunnels and that to understand that we all have reality tunnels is the process of becoming more connected to our fellow humans, but I understand this statement as cementing the importance of narrative waves. Writers like Richard Wright and Hunter S. Thompson come immediately to mind. In the reading of Native Son or Fear and Loathing, the juicy passages that intertwine themselves throughout the text function to bring the reader into the reality tunnel of the novel and out of their own perspective… This, to me, seems to be the function, but in trying to perceive all of these tunnels at once (a la Twelve Blue) I feel as though the only thing that really happens is the reader’s increased self-awareness of their own tunnel. More like the addition of ‘reality weight’ on the shoulders of the reader rather than the removal of that weight through vicarious experience. In essence, Twelve Blue is a text that sticks with the reader, not as the body of text but as the mental experience that the reader has. Certainly, Native Son and Fear and Loathing do this as well, but their effects are based around leaving snippets of text, fragments of that experience in the mind for the reader to use to expand their own world. Twelve Blue seems to do the opposite and wrap the experience in on itself, maintaining an insularity that I don’t understand the usefulness of yet (although perhaps it lies precisely in removal from the text). I’d be interested to know your emotional/perceptive movement during your reading to see how you resolved this.

  2. Ah. Hypertext 3.0 helps with this. It seems like the key is to simply question everything–make the reader question, make yourself question, question methods of analysis. And, by doing this, the reader needs to think outside of the box in order to keep reading the text (assuming they still want to)–what these sourcing materials are saying is gone are the days when I’m just going to sit here and feed all of this to you, reader; you need to stand up and do some of this yourself. Besides, immersion in a text means that you’re at least blind a little bit to the mechanics and agendas of the narrator (unless you’re specifically looking out for that pitfall, which means that you’ll get stuck in another one someplace…). Still, I feel that there needs to be some kind of common ground between the two camps, and in that overlap is where these people seem to be taking about representations of reality and closing in on how to not misrepresent. Again, though, I am of the opinion that reality can change in dramatic ways–supernatural, magical, dizzying, incomprehensible ways–when the same situation is viewed through 5 diff people’s lenses. Check out Anna Kavan’s A Charmed Circle (or Sleep Has His House for a single potential viewpoint) to see what I’m talking about…and that was written 50 or 60 years ago in a book. Ha. Am I back where I started yet?

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