In quantum mechanics there is a theory that says an object can exist in more than one state at any one time. The simple act of observing that item determines what state it is in when we observe it. This is best demonstrated by the thought experiment known as Schrödinger’s cat. In this experiment a cat is placed in a sealed box along with a radioactive source, a Geiger counter and a flask of poison. At some point, the radioactive source will decay, and the radiation will be detected by the Geiger counter. When this happens, the flask of poison is broken and the poor old cat dies. However, from the outside, because the box is sealed, there is no way of telling whether the cat is alive or dead at any particular moment. It can be said that the cat is both alive and dead. It is only when we open the box and look inside that the outcome has to be determined. At this point, the cat is either alive or dead.
In life we often find ourselves in similar situations. We need to know the answer top a question, but by simply asking that question could alter the outcome. Take for example the situation where two people have known each other for a very long time and are really good friends. One day, one of them realises that what they feel for the other is more than friendship but is unsure how the other person feels. If they were to ask then the follow situations could happen:
- The other person feels the same, and they go on to have a happy relationship together.
- The other person does not feel the same, but they manage to carry on as if nothing had happened with their very good friendship.
- The other person does not feel the same and is now uncomfortable with the friendship and ends it.
From this it can be seen that simply by letting the other person know how they felt, the friendship ends. The fact that they didn’t feel the same is not the determining factor, it was the fact that they now knew how the first person felt that altered the situation. If the first person had not made the second aware of their feelings, they would have carried on with the friendship. Simply asking had altered the outcome. In this situation it may have been better not to say anything and just carry on with the friendship as if nothing had changed.
The difference between life and quantum mechanics though is that sometimes we really need to know the answer. Not knowing can give us all kinds of problems from anxiety to stress. In fact it could make the situation worse. We could see signs in everything the other person says or does, either to us, or to other people. We begin to imagine things, and this could really mess up your head.
I have a friend who is going through this situation. Only in her case it isn’t just a case of “does he feel the same about me as I do him?” there are other factors as well. She reads things in to his actions with other people that really upset her. At the moment she has chosen not to say anything and just carry on as friends. She values his friendship more than her happiness.
What would I do? I don’t know. In the past I’ve always played the coward and opted for the friendship and not said anything. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution or what I would do in the future. But I do know that sometimes it’s not the potential answer that is what your afraid of, it’s the possibility of losing everything just because you’ve asked. And I also know that the uncertainty can sometimes be very hard to live with.
What would you do dear reader? Would you risk everything just to know the answer? Or would you settle just for the friendship? I know some of you will say that you should ask God for a sign, but if you’ve read my previous post on the blank piece of paper you will know that sometimes even his signs are not always as clear as we would like them.