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The Uncertainty Principle

December 23, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We think we made it past the end of the Mayan calendar.

But are we in a new age after all?

I am just hoping that I am done with worrying about the uncertainty of it all. I am just tired of waking up in the morning these last several weeks wondering if my world was still the same.

Maybe it has been happening to you too.

You wake up from another restless night. You only dare to open one eye at a time. You blink several times to create a focus but it is hard to do this with one eye. You scan first what is familiar: the clock seems in order and the bed does not seem to slant.

You check to see if your wife has not left for some higher plane of existence. You do this despite her continued pointed re-assurance that her life has descended since she married a lesser form of being.

You gingerly touch the floor first with your big toe and then your foot. It seems solid and the floor somewhat straight.

Perhaps the earth’s axis has not tilted.

But you’re not sure.

You take those uncertain first steps to you window to be sure your car didn’t roll into your neighbor’s basement - or the attic - depending on how this Mayan thing all panned out.

With a sense of relief, everything seems in order – until you listen to the morning news or scan the latest on-line headline.

You begin to realize we do live in an uncertain time.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as defined in is a “scientific principle stating that it is impossible to determine with perfect accuracy both the position and momentum of a particle at any given point in time.” In other words, as the name implies there is a certain level of well – uncertainty that reaches “the most fundamental levels of nature itself.” Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is one of the cornerstones of quantum physics.

When it was released in 1927, it brought a whole new definition to the study of how we studied mechanics.

So perhaps we are governed by uncertainty. A far cry when we were young and everything seemed so black and white. Right or wrong seemed so much more apparent and you seemed to know who the enemy was.

Now we seem to live in a world where nothing is certain:

• America no longer the world’s only dominant power • Our small isolated communities no longer impervious to danger • Weather patterns changing • Economic resurgence muddled • Care for the elderly uncertain

Everywhere we see fundamental changes:

• Our health care system • Summer and winter no longer an economic sure thing • Information technology changing the way we live and behave • Communication creating border-less communities

The World of Twitch

Perhaps we don’t live so much in the world of tweet as the world of twitch.

We anxiously await that next bit of news knowing that communication is not between you and me anymore it’s about pod-casts, e-mail blasts and creating world-wide raves.

We have this uneasy feeling our human skeleton can be exposed at any moment to the on-line blitzkrieg of reviews and opinions.

As business and community members are we beginning to twitch as we look at out of our door waiting for:

• That next delivery of new regulations • The latest report from a review site • Certified mail in triplicate denouncing your life as you did not put the decimal in the right place on the paperwork you sent in • What kind of customer is really coming to my door • A sign that I really be able to pay my bills next month

In these uncertain times, it is tough to plan. It is becoming almost impossible to be certain about anything.

Perhaps this is what the Mayan’s really meant: Life keeps changing finally to the point that a new era begins.

A “Paradigm Shift”?

The “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn discusses “paradigm shifts.” According to, Kuhn’s paradigm shift “is not just a small change in science, or the modification of a theory. It is a scientific revolution and completely changes the way in which science looks at the world. It often dictates how the public looks at the world.”

We have all heard about how Copernicus suggested that the sun was at the center of the solar system – and look at where that got him. The point is this idea did not happen overnight and it needed the assistance of others such as Galileo. A continued build-up of evidence turned this “fringe science” into a “paradigm shift” that changed or view of the universe.

This may be what is happening now. What seems like uncertainty are perhaps different “fringes” that will eventually come together to create a new thinking.

Embrace Change?

Perhaps we should not fear all of this uncertainty but embrace it. Perhaps the world needs you and me to think out of the box – to be a part of that “fringe” thinking that leads to new foundations.

We already know that many of the things that have been created from our 19th C municipal borders, financial systems and business models no longer work. Should we part of a new dialogue for constructive change. The internet has “flattened” the world. It may be up to us now to help affect positive change - to create a true new calendar not just a new year.

If I could pass out one Christmas wish it is that we put our collective ideas and will together for a common purpose. We may not have all the answers right now or know where this is all going. However, if we agree that change is happening and that we can embrace and not fear it, amazing things can happen.

Most change starts with one idea and it typically starts with a small one. Many of our government and community programs today emulated from an idea that was successfully created on a local level.

Perhaps this Christmas can be about the giving of an idea. That a wish for the New Year is to embrace change, take charge of it and have the courage to act on it. It reminds me of a Christmas poem from my father many years ago:

A young tree will mature if it is healthy. Look to nature for your guidance. Be yourself to grow stronger on your way to fulfill your dreams. And let no one take you off this road. Only through challenges do we know ourselves Only through challenges do we know other people Courage comes from within. Strength comes from all of us together.

To new calendar of ideas!


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