Remix Metaphors to Shift Perspective, with Jonathon Keats
Keats explains how marriage can be treated as a metaphor by explaining the process by which two people can become married not by government definition, but by a law of nature, thanks to advances in quantum physics.
Jonathon Keats is a San Francisco-based experimental philosopher who has, over the years, sold real estate in the extra dimensions of space-time proposed by string theory (he sold a hundred and seventy-two extra-dimensional lots in the Bay Area in a single day); made an attempt to genetically engineer God (God turns out to be related to the cyanobacterium); and copyrighted his own mind (in order to get a seventy-year post-life extension.
Keats's bold experiments raise serious questions and put into practice his conviction that the world needs more "curious amateurs," willing to explore publicly whatever intrigues them, in defiance of a culture that increasingly forecloses on wonder and siloes knowledge into narrowly defined areas of expertise.
Jonathon Keats: Marriage is always seemed a little bit problematic to me. The idea that a government gets to decide whether or not you are married according to a given set of laws. Or a religious authority gets to do so. I was thinking about this as I was in the process of getting married. And thinking about the fact that honestly as much as that paperwork would matter to the government it wouldn't really matter much to me or to my future wife. So I wanted to find a way to get married that was deeper, that was more universal than whatever sort of legal framework could be thrown my way by the United States government. I wanted to instead be married by a law of nature. That is possible today, perhaps for the first time because of advances in quantum physics. You wouldn't think it, quantum physics tends to be either highly theoretical or a system that is used for instance in cryptography. However quantum entanglement, one of the essentials systems that comes out of quantum mechanics, is one that has the potential I believe to serve as a way in which marriage can be based on a truly universal foundation.
Quantum entanglement involves two more particles becoming effectively one in the same even if they are separated across the universe from each other. When they are entangled anything that happens to one instantaneously happens to the other as if it had been done to the second particle. That quality seems an awful lot like what marriage is about, this way in which you can lead separate lives and yet you still are somehow bound and whatever comes the way of one person in a relationship also applies to the other. So I set about building an apparatus that would allow my wife and I and others as well to become think entangled, to become married in a way that no governmental authority, no religious authority could say that it was not allowed that it was inappropriate. That gay marriage for instance would not be an issue that a government could regulate. That any sort of relationship at all, if it was meaningful to you, could become fully manifest as an entangled relationship as a marriage at the basis of all reality. The apparatus was very simple. I used a special sort of crystal which was able to take sunlight, photons, and to bombard two people standing below the apparatus with those photos in a way that they themselves became entangled by the entanglement of the photons. So that while it would not necessarily be all of them, while it would not necessarily withstand all time and space, they could partake in this process of entanglement.
And they could then take away from it what they wanted to take away. That is to say that any quantum system is extremely delicate. Entitled is no exception. Any management that you make has the effect of collapsing the system. In other words two particles that are entangled, if you check to see if they are entangled will become disentangled. And so likewise two people who are married by the process of quantum entanglement should they question that bond and start to interrogate it will become disentangled as well. So in a sense the entanglement operates both literally and metaphorically. Literally because I'm using real equipment that is used for entitlement for purposes of encryption for instance, to entangle people and people are becoming genuinely entangled by the process but it is also I think more importantly the knowledge that that process has taken place. And the way in which that makes those people behave that is what makes for an entitlement so special as a form of marriage; the fact that it really has to be taken on faith ultimately because the quantum mechanics demands it and relationships are that way too. Relationships are delicate in the sense that quantum systems are. So I think that we can actually learn from subatomic particles how to behave toward each other in a caring long-term relationship. I think that the metaphor that is inherent in language and in the common understanding of a quantum process can be something that we can apply quite literally and highly productively in our everyday lives.
You might say that metaphors are just metaphors like a poem how important can it be? How seriously can you take something that was meant for the enjoyment that you might get reading a book? To what extent can you really make use of it? I think that metaphor actually is something that can be used incredibly productively by taking it literally. Not by taking it literally and leaving it at that but recognizing the metaphor for what it is and finding what happens if you apply it literally in your life. So that in the case of quantum physics, because quantum physics is so weird, because quantum particles behave in ways that are so totally foreign to the way in which we live, to our experience of the world, much of the discussion of quantum physics happens metaphorically. And the metaphors can be mined I think and can be applied I believe in ways that lead through their literal application to different ways in which we can relate to each other in the world. That is to say that quantum particles relate to each other in ways that are entirely different from those with which we are familiar, from those which we relate with each other on an everyday basis. And the way in which we relate to each other on an everyday basis doesn't always work so well.
We fight, we have problems communicating, we go to war. So might it be possible taking the quantum realm, the metaphors that are used to explain how quantum particles interact and applying those metaphors literally in our lives that we may realign the way in which we live that makes us somehow unlike how we were before. And that repositioning, while it need not be absolutely or permanent, at least can be something that we can try out, can be another way in which we can consider our relationship with others and through that process give us more perspective on the myriad possibilities as far as society where there are seven billion of us for how that society can interact and interrelate.
When Jonathon Keats got married, he wanted to find a way to do it that was deeper than whatever sort of legal framework could be thrown his way by the United States government. He wanted to instead be married by a law of nature which, as he explains, is possible today thanks to advances in quantum physics.
As Keats explores this thought experiment, he explains the value of interpreting metaphors literally. Doing this, he says, will open up your mind to the workings of thought and language while shifting your perspective on myriad social normalities.
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