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Quantum States and the Music State: Paradox?

Quantum States and the Music State: Paradox?

The Paradox

What if two facts are true simultaneously? Example: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history,” wrote Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in 1832. Another is Murphy’s Law: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” One of my favorites is Schrodinger’s Cat…  

This made me laugh:
Art (c) Jeff Kubasak in “Common Genus January 2012”
(just in case)
Simply put, Schrodinger created a “thought experiment” to help folks in the 1920s deal with “modern” quantum physics (think Einstein). He wanted to illustrate that objects which could (theoretically) exist in two different physical states assumed one state or the other once observed.  The experiment lasted one hour and (theoretically) sealed a cat into a metal box with some simple equipment that might or might not kill it. Schrodinger’s point was that the cat will be in one state or the other when the box is opened, but not both, that is, both simultaneously alive and dead. Seems silly, but quantum physicists deal with such things all the time, and the issue with the cat was meant to demonstrate the logical fallacy that some quantum particles can be in two states simultaneously.
Before going further, to clarify: we’re not discussing objects whose state is changed by observation, just objects whose state could simultaneously be two ways until observed. That is, what have we really learned from history? That we’ve ignored the lessons of history (failed to observe them)?
Why does this matter to you? Bear with me…

A Musical Thought Experiment

As a thought experiment, let’s (theoretically) lock a listener in a windowless soundproof booth for an hour with a hip-hop sound track playing at +75dB. In our experiment we predict that the poor soul will be either asleep or awake when we open the booth at the end of the hour, but not simultaneously asleep and awake. (Yes: I have met people who can fall asleep to hip-hop, and you can imagine for yourself what their “normal” waking state must be like.) What state is the listener in at the end of the hour?

OK: I admit that it’s stretching the analogy a bit — from a quantum particle to a human being — but bear with me here….

Music has predictable physiological effects. We know that certain kinds of sounds trigger release of certain hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. With this knowledge, we can (theoretically) predict how listeners will respond to music. Except that it doesn’t always work that way; some folks fall asleep to nature sounds and some to jackhammers, right?
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Whatever your musical preference might be, you can’t change your physiological response. Try it. Put on some house music or hip hop (or swing if you were born in the mid-1900s) and try to resist the effect of that amazing beat. Play new age piano or harp music (or Mantovani) while you work out and see if your end-of-workout physical results are the same as the music you normally use (and if you normally work out to new age or smooth jazz, try working out to disco or hip hop and see if there’s a difference). Listening against your preference is bound to annoy you, it’s true, so please don’t torture yourself! But if you approach this as an experiment, you may be surprised.
Now, here’s where it gets more interesting: you can be in two states at once — a bit more complex than alive or dead and it involves time travel of a sort.

You can, simultaneously in the present moment and in the past and future.
Before we get to “why,” here’s how….

Being in two states at once

The various effects of music, which work in real time (that is, in this moment), coexist with the part of our mind that thinks analytically about the past and the future. For example, have you ever been driving home thinking about what’s for dinner and whether you need to stop at the store on the way while at the same time listening to and maybe singing along with a favorite tune? We used to call this “left and right brain” — (the “left” brain is thinking about the drive and dinner and the shopping list while the “right” brain engages with the music) — and that’s still an apt analogy, although modern neuroscience is starting to leave the left/right metaphor behind in favor of a more holistic one, which I’ll explain in a moment. The point is that both states exist within us simultaneously, independent of observation. We humans are, in fact, each a unique, living, breathing paradox.
So why would you want to be in two states — past/future and present — at once? Let me ask that another way: why would you want to use less than half your capability?
The “civilized” world generally rewards left-brain analysis and productivity much more substantially than right-brain creativity. Creative folks just don’t go into careers where thinking outside the box is not welcome — much better to stay under the radar at work and have a hobby at home. “Starving artist” and “Internet millionaire” are a part of our lexicon…and why? Because these terms tend to be true: the trend has been toward rewards for conformity, with tacit admission that an occasional outlier will advance the accepted ways of doing things in some really wonderful way. Let’s face it: even Amazon and eBay really aren’t that groundbreaking, but they are better than having to go to a bookstore or hold a garage sale, so they made their creators wealthy. Society is willing to reward out of box thinking provided it is still mostly within the acceptable realm, so Jeff Bezos is rewarded for re-inventing his industry (publishing and fulfillment) and Pierre Omidyar for transforming his (auctions). Neither was as great a step forward as, say, the printing press or the notion of exchanging good and services of value, but both are equally good examples of how our society rewards innovation.
Here’s the “why…”

What could happen in the world — or to YOU — if you engaged both halves of your brain? Since your mind is already capable of being in two states at once, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use it fully? How would my occupation be advanced by my full presence instead of merely my analytical/production appearance? How would I be outside of work if I were more fully present? What kinds of new opportunities are open to fully-present folks?

How, I hear you saying, shall I do this?

Fully Engaged in Being

We know that, if you engage in your music you can fully engage your mind. Therefore, if you fully engage your music you have also fully engaged YOURSELF.
Here’s why the left/right analogy is breaking apart — leaving the brain itself behind if you will. It turns out that HeartMath (and other research institutes) are learning that the “right brain” actually has a lot of similarities to what has been called the “autonomic nervous system.” This is the part of your human system that functions below the level of consciousness to beat your heart, breathe, digest food and…wait for it…experience emotion. These systems are very “real time” and work independently of whatever you are “thinking” about (left brain). They are also intricately tied up together, so that a piece of music with a house beat will increase your heart and breathing rates and get you moving (fight or flight response), whereas your mother singing you a  lullaby will have the opposite effect. Music is one possible access point, not just to the creative sub-consciousness and everything else stored there, but to command and control of our “autonomic” physical machinery. 
I’ll say it again: listening to music can change the rate at which we breathe, the rate of our heartbeat, the focus we bring to mental tasks, our physical endurance, our perceptions of enjoyment or displeasure, and our feelings (emotions) just to name a few of the basics. Music can, in fact, give the whole human system a literal tune up: we can use music to become more connected to other human beings or to isolate from them; to throughly investigate our responses to fear or pain or trauma or grief or joy; to smoothly experience overwhelming events such as weddings or funerals; to learn facts quickly and reliably recall them instantly. It’s a fact: human beings have responded to sounds for as long as we have been able to hear them.

Embracing the Paradox

I believe that the best way to deal with a paradox is to embrace it. Perhaps there are some of you who require evidence-based studies before embracing a new idea, and I respect that, but the evidence emerging from the amazing paradox of the seven-billion-member human race may not reach you in time to make a difference in your life. Plus, science has difficulty creating evidence when two equally valid responses to a stimulus exist. So why wait? Make some of your own evidence. It costs you literally nothing to try: Spotify, Pandora and Songza are all waiting for you (yes, we musicians would appreciate your purchase if you find something you really like, and you can find most of our music on iTunes or CDBaby).
Try this simple two-state experiment: for just one of the “left-brain” tasks you must do every day, give yourself a musical sound track. If you already have a sound track for one or more of such tasks, create more sound tracks to support you with the stuff you currently do without music. (Clearly, there will be some tasks where music would interfere; don’t do this for those tasks!) Chart your performance of those tasks versus doing them without a sound track. See if anything changes. I promise you: it will.
Putting your intention behind supporting your “right brain” (actually, most of the sensory/physical part of you, which is literally most of you!) with real-time music can vastly improve your life. If you aren’t experiencing improvement, don’t give it up, just change the music you chose; after all, you don’t want your music to work against completion of a task. After a while, you may find your preferences intuitively pair music and activity in a way that works for you. This is embracing the paradox of being a dual-state human: your entire system works for you when supported in this way. In time, if you really lock in to the playlists you build for working out, doing the dishes, etc, you will find that your brain remembers the music and your body responds to it even when you think about it!
Go ahead and expand this task-based supportive music experiment to thought-based jobs, creative projects (ever daydreamed to music?), emotional processing…just about anything. Keep track of your results: Was it easier to come up with the solution to that problem? How effectively did I process that  workplace emotional injury? You can expect to experience some insight of your own as you progress. Allow yourself to have some silence, too, as you move from sound to sound or sound track to sound track.
And, by the way, it’s a lot of fun doing this.

Back to that cat….

Schrodinger is best remembered for the paradox that bears his name. There are many — in fact, we humans seem to be quite fascinated with them. Wiki has a great list of paradoxes here. I suppose that we are so compelled by them because we are, ourselves, each a living breathing paradox. It’s easier to just get along without exploring the richness and power of a paradox, whether it’s Murphy’s Law or the reason you can both love and hate your relatives…but where’s the fun in that?
If you feel encouraged to jump into your own unknown and explore the power you have there by sound-tracking your life, I look forward to hearing the playlists you assemble. You can share them with me on Spotify.
I wish you great listening.
(BTW, no animals — or humans — were harmed during the production of this blog)

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