Thinking Aloud: Men Are Particles, Women are Waves

By Lance Hardie

Everything you ever wanted to know about psychology—or physics—is contained in those words. True or false?

Man, he lives in jerks—baby born an' a man dies, an' that's a jerk—gets a farm an' loses his farm, an' that's a jerk. Woman, it's all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that.

That's Ma talking to Pa towards the end of John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath. Things have not been easy for any of them; for Pa, it has finally come to the point of self-pity. Well, it takes less than three lines of text for her to set him straight. Though she may put it in her own language, Ma knows all about life in terms of male-female polarities. And, when all is said and done, it is she who doesn't break.

Of course male-female polarities have been around since—let's go ahead and say it—since the Big Bang. And knowledge of them at least since we shed our primate fur. The particular mode those polarities assume to become behaviors, not to say social structures and political styles—that's a subject much in vogue nowadays.

It is a fact that the male nature tends to be mobile, explosive, and aspiring to enter new territory and scale the heights. This is how the human sperm, among other male vehicles, has been observed to behave. The egg, on the other hand, tends to be settled, protected, and aiming to embrace and dissolve (all right, nurture) an approaching candidate—a female role by definition, generally, or at least by convention.

Moving down the hierarchy through the animal and vegetable realms and past the mineral to the submolecular world, we find an odd correlation. Early in the twentieth century physicists trying to make sense of the structure of the atom bumped up against the particle-wave paradox. Now here is the strange thing. In the world of subatomic physics, particles are seen to display "masculine" behavior while wave phenomena seem to have characteristics more easily associated with "feminine" ways.

The first question that immediately comes to mind is: What about "particles" that sometimes appear to be waves, and "waves" that can also manifest as particles? Even more amazing is that this dual nature of subatomic entities doesn't differ much from what psychologists have discovered in human beings. We all have masculine and feminine aspects to our personalities. Carl Jung called a man's feminine aspect the anima, and the masculine counterpart in a woman the animus. For example, a man's moods originate in his anima, and a woman's bossiness (and some have claimed even her bitchiness) comes from her animus. In Jung's system, individuation or healing takes place within the psyche when the personality is finally integrated.

Is there any question that men like to play ball? Any kind of ball. Whatever culture you live in, there is a popular ball game that men play. Hurling projectiles is one of our basic, primitive drives as men. Dealing with containers is one of the basic, primitive drives of women. It extends, traditionally, to storing, carrying, cooking, and serving. The sexual roles are corollary aspects of these basic tendencies.

However one might feel about "accidents of nature," it seems reasonable to speculate that this similarity can't be the result of such an accident. I'll go out on a limb and propose that the male-female polarity extends to the entire universe, and that it can be found in every layer of reality. It is tempting, therefore, to assert that in the subatomic world particles are "male," waves are "female." Particles are the very stuff of bombardments and collisions, of subparticles flying apart and annihilating each other, the kind of physics favored by—surprise!—male physicists.

In this sense, the notion that the universe began its existence in a Big Bang is a mental projection of what we might call, with complete innocence, "male physics." What's missing is the polar counterpart. The Goddess advocates are right in at least one respect: modern scientific models do not make room for a feminine element in the scheme of things. If the universe is a dance of male and female energy forms, where is the female in our current creation myth? Our Father exploded and sent His seed in all directions. Okay so far. Now then, didn't it have to fall somewhere in order to grow? Who was fertilized by it? See the problem?

In the billiard ball model of the world no reference is made to the balls ever falling into pockets! The balls are there, the pockets are not. How can this be? All the balls can do is collide with each other, endlessly, ad infinitum. You would think that even male physics—especially male physicists—would want to score once in a while. It's a mystery. The metaphor that would brand the scientific brotherhood as a sort of priesthood is closer to the truth than its proponents suspect. By this account, science is not just defeminized; it is positively dehumanized.

Now, just for fun, consider a female-only version of this story. Let's call it the Big Swell.

There is no sudden beginning. Instead there is a slow buildup from an original state, a watery kind of primordial energy matrix pregnant with all possibilities. This state might be similar to what some now call the Zero Point Field, the latent, potential field out of which everything arises into existence. There is organic growth out of this Watery Mother, the infinite container of All That Can Be. And even as new forms arise and grow away from the Original Mother, the Source is always there, continuing to feed the stream that emerges endlessly from it.

Anyone who takes a moment to look at our universe can see the waves that shape the galaxies and drive the orbits of the bodies traveling through space. Astronomers speak of gravitational "resonances" between planets and moons and asteroids and planetary rings. What are these if not wave phenomena? Close your eyes, forget the theories, and let your mind drift for a moment.

Imagine the Great Mother singing to her children as they learn to dance in the infinite space of endless creation. There are collisions here and there, certainly, and it is plain to see that they are necessary steps in the dance if the dancers are to follow the music. If physics had feminine roots and practitioners, there is a good chance that modern physics would conform to some variety of this model. We see what we are. We make what we are. And not because of meanness or prejudice. We do it because it comes naturally to us and we believe it to be the truth.

So then, are men particles and women waves? Well, sure, and they are also both. Part of the wave-particle paradox is that the two aspects cannot be truly separated. Their essence is not entirely in our "reality," so much so that they have been called "wavicles" to emphasize their strange nature. And it is also not news that men have a feminine element within them as women have a masculine counterpart in their makeup, though we both have our dominant modes in thinking, feeling, and behaving.

When we feel a "resonance" with another, it may be less the particle or wave aspect that does it than the movements of the larger ocean and atmosphere in which we live. To grow, to become integrated, means to rise above the smallness of our world, to a larger horizon that includes those parts of ourselves that we have denied or failed to see. To the extent that we achieve that aim, to that extent we achieve peace and true humanity. And to that extent we bring about the Knowledge of our Father and the Wisdom of our Mother—and the Love of both.

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