Friday, April 2, 2010

The Participative Nature of the Universe

"In the quantum world, what you see is what you get." Margaret J. Wheatley Leadership and the New Science

In my mind this is the foundational cornerstone of paradoxical quantum physics. The new science explains that there is fundamentally no objective reality out there waiting to be discovered. Instead we live in a universe -
  • that co-evolves as we interact with it
  • where ideas and information are only part of what is required to evoke reality
  • that is constantly changing and impossible to pin down
  • in which there are no 'building blocks' of matter
  • where relationships are the key determiner of everything
  • and subatomic particles come into form only in relationship to something else
  • where unseen connections between what were previously thought to be separate entities are the fundamental ingredient of all creation
  • which is a living system constantly seeking its own self-renewal
  • where differentiation is the defining metaphor - with each organism maintaining a clear identity within a larger network of relationships that help shape its identity
Quantum reality also challenges our beliefs about objective measurement because at the subatomic level the observer can't make an observation without interfering and actually participating in its creation. In other words, when we choose what to look for or measure, we actually evoke one particular outcome while the vast number of potential outcomes collapses in cooperation with our expectation.

In the quantum world, physicists describe relationship as all there is to reality. Particles only come into being through interactions with other energy sources. And even though we give names to these sources - neutrons, electrons, and other particles - no particle can be identified independently from the others. We can begin to think about elementary particles as "bundles of potentiality."

Here is the real kicker: No one of us exists independent of our relationship with others. Various people and environments evoke certain qualities from us and leave others dormant. In each of these varied relationships over time and space, we express ourselves according to our interaction with that particular system of influence.
  • A system can be defined as a set of processes that are made visible in temporary structures - like work, home, church, pub, school, club.......that exert an influence on everyone that comes into the relational orbit of that emotional field.
"Each of us is a different person in different places. That doesn't make us inauthentic; it merely makes us quantum. Not only are we fuzzy; the whole universe is." M.J. Wheatley

Thus if there is not objective reality 'out there', then the environment and our futures remain uncreated until we engage with the present field of influence we find ourselves in. We have to interact with the world around us in order to see what we might create, and through this engagement we evoke ours and others futures.

Power can be seen to be purely relational in nature and full of energy (positive or negative) that flows through an emotional field. Healthy relationships are possible in each system of influence and perhaps love is the most potent source of that relational power.

I don't utilize elaborate plans or time lines and instead choose to focus on being a better colleague and learner. Trusting the process over time with other people, has shown me that we can co-create a complex tapestry of rich diversity in the midst of profound connections. We seem to each become clearer about who we are and want to be, while remaining deeply connected to one another.

Perhaps its time to give up the urge to control anyone else, and instead focus on how we might team up with our family, friends and associates to co-create something new within our sphere of influence. We might just surprise ourselves and the watching world around us. Amen.

"Your think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must also understand and." Sufi teaching

Adapted by O'Steven from Leadership and The New Science by Wheatley


  1. Dear Steve: Just how does the resurrection of Christ and my marriage vows fit in with what you've written? Warmly, David Wegener

  2. Nice metaphor, but physicists have not been able to explain how the quantum world translates into the macro world. They cannot be explained together, no unified theory.