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6th of May, 2024

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that there is an inherent limit to how precisely we can simultaneously determine the values of related pairs of measurements in a quantum system, such as the position or momentum of a particle. One of the lovely quirks of this principle is that it is possible for there to be uncertainty over whether a photon has zero energy or non-zero energy. A non zero energy photon is a photon, while a non-zero photon is simply an absence of a photon—no present particle. So even in the vacuum of space it so happens that photons appear from apparently nowhere, as uncertainty produces energy where before there was none. This happens on tiny timescales, and usually corrects itself pretty much instantaneously, but even so it means that all throughout space tiny packets of energy appear in an instant, as if the universe is fizzing with pins and needles.

Eternity, conceived by way of the cycle, is stasis in motion. For change on the order of generations and centuries to be integrated into this philosophy it therefore must resemble transition in stasis. But stasis isn’t a freeze frame of reality, it is a mode of stillness, permeated by uncertain itches. Our earliest paintings on the walls of caves, a non-linear mythographic writing system, were conceived of as animations. Shielded from the steady light of the sun by roofs of rock, they were set into motion by the flickering of firelight. When they were discovered in modern times—photographed and illuminated by electric lamps—they were seen standing still for the first time in history. (They were less alive then than when they were forgotten and in the dark.)

The condition of decay that rules all of biological reality is too strict a teacher, perhaps, because humans aren’t very good at thinking about change that does not take the form of decay. The natural conceptualisation of a grand cosmic harmony must account for the universal compulsion of degeneration, such that order can only be won by an oscillating destruction and re-creation. Deities, priests, and kings are tasked with doing this dynamic work, while everyone else works the roles that the cosmic order in question has ordained for them in the interest of stability. For the prehistoric or feudal subject awareness of history scarcely exceeds the events of single lifetimes. Where there is an antiquity, it is legendary; it exists as a moral ideal which the contemporary sees as if over a chasm, and which does not belong to the same causal continuum as lives in their living. The practical result of this, the texture of experience for these people, was a kind of eternal moment in the dusk of history. Things have always been this way, but simultaneously always less and less. For such people, a violent apocalypse myth is something of a comfort, in the end. It frees them from the secular eschatology of heat death in which the final moment of existence is, precisely, the effacing of some dim glow; necessarily unseen since all possible eyes have been unmade already.

“A universe of radically disentangled identities multiplying one by itself, over and over, separated not by distance (which itself has been dismantled) but by total incommensurability.”
—Paul Gagneux, Dimension and Information

Further Reading:

Time Is Not a Line
The Absurdity of a Net