Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why International Development is like Quantum Mechanics

One of my favorite silly poems is "The story of Schroedinger's cat (an epic poem)" which can be found here if you are interested in reading the whole thing. 

I was reminded of this poem when Kristen, my classmate, was presenting on the appreciative inquiry approach of community development.

This approach is based on the idea that the very act of questioning changes the situation regardless of whether or not those questions are answered.

When Kristen said "questioning changes the situation" I immediately thought "The act of observing disturbs the observed —" which is a line from the Cecil Adams epic poem. 

My random associations always make sense to me, but usually make no sense to anyone else.  During an in-class discussion on overpopulation in Egypt and land reform I made a reference to eating babies in Ireland, and half the class knew that I was talking about A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and the other half of the class was confused and a little disturbed.  A minute later another student referenced the Duggars.  It was an interesting class. 

This time I kept my quantum mechanics reference to myself, but after class I mentioned it to Kristen, a fellow science-lover.  She was tracking with me, so I decided I could post it here just for fun. 

So why is international development like quantum mechanics? Cecil Adams wrote:

"We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons — you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed —
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability — certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear."

International development is like quantum mechanics because you can't know if an approach will work in a specific community without testing, but the very act of an outsider coming into a community and asking questions changes the community irreversibly.  You cannot undo the influence of a missionary living in a community even if they don't implement any projects.  The fact that an outsider is there observing and asking questions changes the answers to the questions.

So those are my silly thoughts on why international development is like quantum mechanics based on an oversimplification in verse.  =)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

 Merry Christmas from my family in Brazil! It is always special when my grandparents can have both their children and their spouses along with all three of their grandchildren in the same room.  Our family is relatively small, but living on different continents makes getting together challenging.   The fact that this photo happened is a blessing for my grandparents who are both over 90 years old. 

 With my cousins

I took this photo on the day I arrived in Brazil which happened to be their 66th anniversary!