This week I had the opportunity at work to attend a two-day course discussing how to develop a winning attitude (Winning Edge- Mancroft Training). While I personally did not find it the most enlightening course I have ever attended (many of the aspects I have dealt with previously, especially during my mission for the LDS Church) it did raise a number of thought questions surrounding our response to external stimuli that I found particularly interesting.
While at university, I remember the joy of coming to grips with quantum mechanics. I especially found it fascinating seeing the logical conclusion of the Copenhagen interpretation as expressed in such paradox's as Schrodinger's Cat.
Schrodinger explained his thought experiment; "A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.
"It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."
In effect, the basic quantum theory progressed to an observable scenario dictates that the cat is in a quasi-state of alive and dead until such time as it is observed.
During my recent course I was reminded of the words of Hamlet "...there is nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so". This quote was provided as substantiation of the premise that actions in and of themselves are neutral- it is only our interpretation, based upon our personal values and outlook, that moulds those actions into positive or negative.
While on a micro- a personal- level I can understand and accept this premise as true, I feel that this idea soon becomes as paradoxical as Schrodinger's cat when moving towards application on a macro level.
At around 588BC an aging prophet from Jerusalem taught his sons an interesting principle;
"And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
"And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
"Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. "Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
"And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given."
On a daily basis bad things happen. We are faced with all manner of problems big and small. Just this morning my petrol cap would not lock and so I wasted 15 minutes trying to WD40 my key out so that I could start my car and get to work. I was then cut up on a roundabout by a numptee who proceeded to drive at 45mph in a 60 zone for the next 9 miles. In this case these events are neutral- they are neither good nor bad. How I react assigns these situations to a category and will affect my feelings of well being and ultimately affect the success of my day.
Towards the other end of the spectrum, I saw today that a young student was murdered in Purugia. In this situation, as with many others that we unfortunately see regularly, it is impossible to say that the action is neutral regardless of the values of witnessing individuals rather, as so eloquently stated, there is a law decreed by God and according to this law we are free to "act" or to be "acted upon".
While there are definite consequences to good or bad volition in respect to these laws, so to are these consequences to our response to these things. In this case, that of our personal interaction with these actions (good or bad), it is our choice to act or to be acted upon- to react or to be proactive.
For me this was the great message of my training this week- that true success in life comes through our adherence to social (including corporate) and eternal laws and guidelines and our proactively responding to the good and bad stimuli that we each experience on a daily basis.