“Ψ (Psi) Poems” by T. Huntington

A bi-national author and artist, Tanya Huntington is Managing Editor of the bilingual digital magazine Literal: Latin American Voices. Her most recent book of poetry is Solastalgia (Almadía, 2018). She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park and currently teaches Poetry and Design in Mexico City.

Ψ (Psi)

Did you know in wave mechanics, equations never end?
Well, after reading that, I attempted to visualize
mīmēsis as splitting odds and ends in half. Not KAPOW!
like atoms, or Aristophanes’ bi-gendered orange
when angry bolts of lightning strike; think more along the lines
of protoplasmic flow, eukaryotically hacked
every single time we observe anything around us.
Hence, from the moment you first scan these printed words in verse,
they have already morphed into dotted lines on a curve:
letters rising/letters falling simultaneously.

Physicists use the Greek symbol called psi to represent
the wave function they consider to be emblematic
of this flux. The conjunction of lines that, once assembled,
form Ψ is similar to signs found in caves dating back
to the Ice Age in Europe. Ψ is also the direct
pictographic forerunner of the phenome known as X,
which among mathematicians, symbolizes the unknown.
Other possible interpretations, according to
Wikipedia, include Neptune’s mighty trident, or, in
Judeo-Christian lore, that pitchfork held by the Devil.
Ψ can signify psychology, psychiatry and
even parapsychology, i.e. studies delving
into the paranormal or the supernatural,
such as research into extrasensory perception.
In mathematics, Ψ is the supergolden ratio, or
reciprocal Fibonacci constant, if you prefer.
According to biochemists, it denotes one of the
dihedral angles found within the backbones of proteins.
It is also the symbol used for the traditional
Okinawan melee weapon for striking and blocking,
which is similar in shape and coincidentally
known as a sai. In Biblical studies, it is read as
an abbreviation for the book of Psalms, considered
to be the most poetic —writ mostly by King David.
But back to the field of physics: for decades, physicists
divided our reality between microscopic
indetermination and the so-called classic world, where
causes and effects prevail, and never the twain shall meet.
Hugh Everett III, creator of the theory of
many worlds, proposed that we demolish that wall, remove
that barrier. Or rather, he pointed out there was no
actual evidence of the barrier’s existence.
Everett’s interpretation states that whatever we
consider possible will take place at some point in time.

Everett believed whenever we die on one timeline,
it ends, while the others continue to grow. Basically,
another spill breaks another branch on our tree of mes.
Behind this notion lurks a great deal of existential
dread, or if you prefer, an acute sense of the absurd.
An odd world, not unlike Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, where
the see is saw, the saw is see. To be is not to be.
Nonsense leads us down the rabbit’s hole to a tea party
where riddles have no answers; where we become stuck in time
with all the other dormice and march hares and mad hatters,
never knowing why a raven is like a writing desk.

But how, you may ask, can we perceive a reality
that divides in constant bifurcation? We’d lose our minds
and go stark raving mad as the aforementioned hatter
if the present tense smeared off into different directions
every single time an observation were registered.
(Important disclaimer: the imagery presented here
is not the freak result of my own imagination;
it belongs to quantum physics. Schrödinger’s cat, you ask?
Ha! If you think that’s mind-blowing, try Everett’s amoeba.)

Basically, decoherence theory assumes there must be
something setting these curves straight. The numbers continue to
run wild on a microscopic scale, then solidify
into relentless cause and effect once they go macro.
The other day as I was pondering this, it struck me:
what if dreams are the ways and means we employ to collapse
our consciousness? What if we make quantum leaps in our sleep?
Sleep repairs our bodies, so why shouldn’t it repair time?
Which would explain why dreams make no sense and yet have purpose,
not unlike the wondrous digital devices we use
obtusely: they run on quantum mechanics, after all.
Remember, Wonderland is a realm dreamed up by Alice,
who awakens from her nap at the end of the book.
Could dreaming be what holds the foundation firmly in place
and maintains the timeline of our so-called “classical world”?
Perhaps dreams, rather than defying the laws of physics,
are the mode of observation required to preserve them.
What if, as we sleep, we sometimes hop across the closest
trajectories in our networked realities, the ones
that are most similar, the ones that are almost the same?
Which would explain why it can seem from one day to the next
you wake to find that someone in whom you once confided
can’t be trusted after all, that someone who seemed loyal
has suddenly betrayed you, that someone who swore to you
they’d gotten their act together has already relapsed…

This particular rabbit hole is how we arrive at
quantum immortality. Although the universal
wave function collapses once it is observed, no one has
ever actually witnessed such a collapse, because there
is no shore to stand on, only waves that keep on rolling.
And what if memories, not dreams, consolidate our world?
That’s what Everett believed – that every memory creates
another branch on our tree of quantum existences.
Think of how the myriad possibilities rush by
each passing moment, just consider the vast plethora
of experiences, or how fast our timelines flatten
once they move into the past. Think of these continuous,
yet causal changes taking place over the course of years.

So, let’s review: superposition means that more than one
reality shall remain in existence up until
the moment someone sees it. That’s what
makes the wave function collapse. Observation is the key.
This is what those belonging to the school of Bohr believed.
This is why Schrödinger’s cat is alive and not alive
until an observer opens the box to take a look.
And yet, according to the point of view of Everett,
such emphasis on ekphrasis leaves much to be desired.
Why should observation be our only means of gathering
data? Couldn’t our consciousness extract material
results from notions superimposed through all five senses?
Or is our subconscious in charge? I can’t help but wonder:
what if the observer makes a mistake? What if the wool
has been pulled over the observer’s eyes? If so, by whom?
What if the observer chooses –either consciously or
subconsciously– to remain oblivious to all this?
Such holes in Bohr’s theory explain why Everett did not
believe that alternate realities collapse at all.
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.

The quantum universe casts no judgment on our actions.
It makes no distinction between being accident prone
(which I most definitely was) and showing what are known as
suicidal tendencies (which I most definitely had).
I once interviewed a psychiatrist about the ties
between poets and suicide. He described the cord that
binds a poet to this life as not unlike the tether
of an astronaut who’s taken a far greater interest
in her deep exploration of voids unknown than in the
safety of her spacecraft, and that the tether sometimes breaks.
I think suicides occur out of a desperation
to achieve some kind of out-of-body experience,
out of an intuitive expectation that we are
not confined to just one timeline, but spread out over as
many autobiographies as we would like to lead.
We are drawn to the possibility of becoming
Lady Lazarus, even if it means we can never
go back to the lives we led before we rose from the ash.

Everett soon gave up on anybody understanding
his “many worlds” theory and went into government-funded
enterprise, where he dedicated his weekday 9 to 5
to assessing the amount of damage caused by the outcome
of thermonuclear war scenarios that he believed were
actually taking place on other branches of existence,
on worlds where World War III was being fought.
He became a drinker, a chain smoker, a womanizer,
a warmonger with a failed travel agency on the side
who lived in the blast zone surrounding his nation’s capital,
who liked to toss his glittering Krugerrands up in the air,
who died of a sudden heart attack nel mezzo del cammin,
which goes to show how powerful the suburban lifestyle
can be: able to turn a man who upended physics
paradigms into the essence of mediocrity.

From the Editor:

We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.

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In Parentheses Magazine (Volume 7, Issue 3) Winter 2022

By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7

32 pages, published 1/15/2022

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