Sunday, October 26, 2008


Those who cast news often speak of something being surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty. At the moment, the stock markets worldwide are alleged to be surrounded by much uncertainty. It's more likely that they're surrounded by certainty--that things aren't going well.

I don't think I've ever fully understood Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, but that hasn't kept me from liking it very much. For one thing, I like the inherent paradox of an Uncertainty Principle. How principled can a principle be if it's an Uncertainty Principle? I think but do not know that the U.P. refers to the atomic and sub-atomic level of reality, which, when studied by humans, can be changed by the studying. Therefore, by studying item X, especially at the sub-atomic level, scientists change what they're studying and consequently cannot reach a definite (certain) conclusion about X. Apparently quantum mechanics support the H.U.P., but you couldn't prove it by me because I'm uncertain about the whole thing. I urge you to contact your local physicist, but there's no rush. Take your time, which is a function of space.

I had a different kind of uncertainty in mind, I think (I'm not sure), when I wrote the following poem. I suspect the poem may be, in part, a response to the sense in which we are pushed and pulled to decide quickly all the time, or almost all the time.


When in doubt, why not stay there?
Sure, the station claims a train leaves
for Clarity every two hours (or so),
but that city may be ironically named,
like New York, which is neither new
nor connected to York in any substantial
way. When in doubt, enjoy the contours

of uncertainty. Sigh. Stall. Scratch
yourself or a domesticated animal.
Stare out or into a window. Check
your store of provisions. The world's
always in a hurry to urge you to decide.
The reasons for this circumstance may

chiefly be economic and political.
Also, impatience self-perpetuates.
What, in fact, is the rush? I don't
know. I'm not sure. I'm uncertain.

Hans Ostrom Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom
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