Thursday, September 22, 2011


23 Elul, 5771
September 22nd, 2011

There is this thing called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. You, like me, may have heard a physics professor mention it while you were trying to sleep in the back row of class.

Anyways, the Uncertainty Principle is a foundation of quantum mechanics, and it states something extraordinary: the more precisely one knows a particle’s position, the less precisely one can know that particle’s momentum, and vice versa.

In plainer words, the more we know where something is, the less we know where it’s going. The reverse is true as well.* Uncertainty about one or the other is part of reality.

I find this theorem an elegant metaphor for the life of the spirit. Indeed it is possible to see most spiritual questions as about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. And about the last two I will simply say: it is impossible to be certain about both at the same time.

Some attempt to write spiritual prescriptions, describing the precise path from A to B in life, guaranteeing success if steps are precisely followed. I reject such attempts with the totality of my being. A spirituality that does not include uncertainty is not worthy of the name.

*Physicists reading this are probably tearing their hair out at the inaccuracy of my description. To them I can only say: you aren’t the first. 

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