Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Recently, I heard a speaker make reference to Schrodinger’s Cat. For those who don’t know, or don’t care to look it up on Wikipedia, Schrodinger’s Cat references a hypothetical experiment which supposes that a cat, placed into a sealed box containing a tablet of cyanide as well as a small vial of acid dripping onto the tablet, could, during the duration of and/or at the conclusion of the experiment, be either alive or dead – or in a state of flux of both states at the same time – because we are uncertain if the tablet has or has not broken open and therefore killed the cat. Since we cannot know for certain, the cat is simultaneously both dead and alive according to quantum law, in a superposition of states. It is only when we break open the box and learn the condition of the cat that the superposition is lost, and the cat becomes one or the other (dead or alive). This situation is sometimes called quantum indeterminacy or the observer’s paradox: the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made. That is, there is no single outcome unless it is observed.
And we thought that when it came to boxes, Pandora had it bad.
Individuals such as myself who grew up reading comic books as well as watching and reading science fiction tend to be a bit comfortable discussing concepts like Schrodinger’s Cat, mainly because we’ve already opened our minds up to the probability of an infinite diversity of infinite combinations. When the answer to a question of “Is it A, or is it B?” turns out to be “Yes,” it can be maddening to some people who are more dualistic in their thinking, especially in their theology.
To take this analogy to a point of a spiritual parallel, imagine yourself as the cat, the redemptive grace of the cross as the cyanide pellet, and the dripping acid as the Holy Spirit. For believers, at some point in our life’s journey, we invite grace (Christ) into the box of our lives. The acid drip comes with the grace, and interacts with and releases the power contained in the pellet. However, some individuals – with every head bowed and every eye closed – may simply raise a hand and have a sealed pellet placed into their box. The power remains there, waiting. The power remains there, offered. But the power remains not acted upon. Ironically enough, releasing the power within the cyanide pellet, which normally would kill, allows the “cat” to become alive, but only when it dies to self.
Grace tends to express itself as a more pluralistic concept than a dualistic one. Again, for some, this can be maddening, and yet somehow simultaneously comforting in the inexplicable nature of it all. However, if this same grace, which is freely offered and freely taken, is not acted upon, in, and within our lives, our grace is basically dead. Cheap, some might call it.
Sometimes the boxes we live in are sealed by us to guard against the prying eyes of others. Maybe we simply haven’t learned that it’s okay to take off the box lid for others to see the experiment take place. We may be afraid of letting others discover that our cat isn’t the full-blooded Persian we have made it out to be, but is instead a mixed tabby. Regardless, we are called to show and display this grace we have invited in to be active. Matthew 5:14-16 states, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Observing the experiment does indeed change the outcome. Observing someone who claims to be a follower should affect both how the observed and the observer interact with one other as well as what can be inferred about the presence of grace within the believer’s life. We’re called to be observed, and not live in sealed boxes. 2 Corinthians 9:13 states, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” This is the essence of community life, which we as believers are made to live and serve in.
We can’t just live in our box, looking at the pellet, pawing it every so often. We have to actively allow the pellet be broken, releasing what it contains and letting it spill into and over us. We have to let observations take place, no matter how much it might inconvenience or annoy us to be observed.
Otherwise our faith, our grace, and our redemption is like nothing more than a dead cat in a sealed box.
Both of which, after a short time, will stink.
Photo Credit: Jean-Marie Huet