Quantum Comedy

“Anthropology, perception psychology, neurology, phenomenological sociology, ethnomethodology and even ethology (in its study of imprinting in animals), all confirm the quantum mechanical and Existentialist view that the world we perceive is a Mickey Mouse cartoon our brains have created out of signals that arrive as raw energy at the rate of millions of bleeps per second. Which type of Mickey Mouse cartoon—or Homeric epic, or Soap Opera—we make of these signals depends on our genes (which species of brain we have—mammalian, serpentine, insectoid etc.), and next on our imprints, and our conditioning and “learning” or brainwashing by society, and these are perpetuated by our lazy habits and only sometimes modified or somewhat transcended by our efforts at creativity and higher awareness.


“The various “models” of quantum mechanics—and it is symptomatic that we dare not call them “theories” any more—are all in direct contradiction to common sense and to common sense-data (the Mickey Mouse cut-outs our brain constructs from the energy bleeps it receives). Each type of quantum model is at least as weird as Dali’s Debris of an Automobile Giving Birth to a Blind Horse Biting a Telephone.

“Is Schroedinger’s cat in the famous gedankenexperiment dead or alive, or both, or somewhere in between? Each quantum model gives a different answer to that crucial question, just as different quantum models tell us that an unmeasured particle is simultaneously spin-up or spin-down or both or neither. Heisenberg said Eintsein’s attempt to find out what such and unmeasured particle is “really” doing was “like the medieval debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” Why should an unmeasured particle not also be giving birth to a blind horse biting a telephone?

(The only particles we know anything about are the measured ones, which are shaped and to some extent created by the measurements. just as the only people we know anything about are the encountered ones who are shaped and to some extent created by our encounters with them. You knew that already, didn’t you?)

“Back in Joyceland, there is the Garry Owen mystery. Garry is a dog, and in the world of appearances one can even say Garry was a “real” dog. That is, he was whelped in 1888 and was owned by J. J. Giltrap, a Dublin breeder of pedigreed Irish setters. In a 19th Century novel, if Garry Owen appeared, he would be a definite and specific dog corresponding to the 19th Century delusion that a definite and specific “reality” exists somewhere apart from observers and observings. In the quantum comedy of Ulysses, there are three Garry Owens, or three Mickey Mouse cut-outs of the infinite space-time process called “Garry Owen,” each seen by one of three different observers: the first is a lively and endearing animal, the second is a surly and dangerous brute, and the third actually talks and even recites Gaelic poetry. This is the kind of attention to existential, phenomenological relativity that makes Joyce contemporary, whereas “realistic” writers are still living in medieval Aristotelian myth. Joyce’s multi-valued dog is as paradigmatic of our age as Schroedinger’s dead-and-alive cat.

“Elsewhere in this volume I enquire into the length of King Kong’s penis. My conclusions are relative to the context in which Kong belongs—the context of surrealism and dream—and are not consistent with the logic of Aristotelian “reality.” But to Aristotle a penis, like any other rod, has a “real” length which is “essential” to its “nature,” and we have known since Special Relativity (1905) that there is no such “real” length in experience, but only the various lengths (plural) of various observers or observing instruments. Like Dali’s Andalusian Dog and Joyce’s three-headed Irish setter, Kong’s penis and an Einsteinian rod are “in the eye of the beholder,” as it were. This is why all people with a good scientific education understand at once the answer to Zen Buddhist riddle, “Who is the Master who makes the grass green?”‘

Robert Anton Wilson, “Preface”. Rudy Rucker, Peter Lamborn Wilson & Robert Anton Wilson, eds.  Semiotext [e] SF. New York: Autonomedia. 1989. pp 18-19

Image: Edith Joy Rae, A nude with Mickey Mouse hair April 17. 09. Via Daily Painters