Monday, June 14, 2004

Heisenberg and Harry Potter

I was just thinking about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, with regard to life and reading. So I'm a bit of a nerd. This wouldn't surprise anyone who knows me.

Just in case you don't feel like googling it, or looking it up in Wikipedia, there is a pretty good description here.

I've heard it restated even more generally to mean the act of observation changes the behavior of the observed.

"Ah, well. That's all well and good," you might say, if this blog actually had an audience and you were in it, "but how do you apply that to reading and then in a broader sense to life, Mac?"

"Well," I might reply, "When we approach a text with the intent to comprehend the meaning represented by the words, we bring our own experiences as a filter."

We can't--and probably shouldn't, except in extreme circumstances--escape the influences that shaped us as human beings. And we can't approach a book or story the same way we approach a movie. Printed words on a page are representational of something else, in a way that actors moving on a screen are not. The printed words "William Wallace" demand a much higher level of participation from a reader than images of Mel Gibson in a kilt with his face painted blue demand from a viewer.

Now I'm not dissing movies. I love movies. And this isn't some weird diatribe because I read and fell in love with Scottish Chiefs before anyone had ever contemplated making Braveheart. But I gotta say, I never really pictured Mel as William Wallace, when I read the book.

And having read the book, then seen the movie, the nature of the text is actually changed. The more people who see and accept the movie, the more the text is affected. Harry Potter, anyone?

As to how the Heisenberg Principle applies to life--well, I'm still working that out.

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