Sally Detroit’s
Never Blame the Booster For What the Sucker Does

Hello out there in Smoke Signals land.

Lookit. I got a new secretary these days. Lucky for me he can type because he can’t do anything else and I have a story I want to tell you that he knows better than me.

The other night when I come back to my office what do I see but my secretary’s generosity gone overboard with good hootch towards this bum I do not know. My secretary says, “Hey Sally, this is Wormer Von Hackensack” or such, “the famous physicist,” and I go like “Ya Ya,” noticing that this Wormer is putting away 12-year-old J&B like it is Pabst Blue Ribbon. He is sitting there behind my desk, reading your rag, the one with the fella saying “SHOW YOUR BLUE LIGHT” out the middle of his teeth (Ed. note: SS no. 1,2) and was reading out loud from that piece VISIONS OF A FUNKY GOD. He lays down the magazine, and without even Greetings or Salutations says that the writer knows nothing about particle physics and has to tally misconstrued the uncertainty principle, like most laymen, but somehow has shelled a small grain of truth. He then made a point of elaborately clarifying the uncertainty principle, emphasizing that its basis and function is in the observer’s perceptions and the empiric conditions surrounding the experiment, not the subject of the experiment itself. That our attention effects changes in the behavior of the subject under scrutiny is indisputable, but it is necessary to ground that perception in the awareness of the fact that we may or may not have glimpsed the absolute nature of the subject. Such is the stuff of Schrodinger’s equations. We observe the hydrogen atom under as many conditions that we can devise, attempting to discover its nature, and we discover we have learned more about our own resources and the infinite capacity of matter than any solid certainty. Our attention is in direct relationship to the results of our experiment. That’s Heisenberg. That God was brought into the equation by your writer was great inspiration to Wormer, and he told us this story.

Seems some forty-odd years ago, the original quantum boys took a break from various stunning revelations to do some climbing in the Bavarian Alps. The party consisted of Wormer, Niels Bohr, Heisenberg, and two new young hot ones, now forgotten. Bohr had just discovered traces of what could be anti-matter, under conditions that had been predicted by Einstein many years before, and this caused a great deal of excitement within the crowd. The excitement was more about the fact that this maybe anti-matter had been fingered by Einstein than that Bohr had come across it, because Einie had cut them loose and eschewed their realm and methods of consideration on all levels before he split for the U.S. of A., and here he was again. “It seems,” said Wormer, “that Einie was always like Banquo’s ghost at Bohr’s feast of the imagination. All the time, no matter what they, the quantum boys, were doing, Niels was arguing with Einie.

So anyway, the story goes that they are all knee-deep halfway up some snowy Beethoven peak making for the chalet at the ridge, with Wormer deep in thought about how they all are making like wise formidable tracks in the absolute consecration of the scientific method when, lo and behold, all are swept away in an avalanche. It turned out to be the small size of Alpine avalanche, but it was enough to keep everyone deeply and suddenly silent for some stunning moments there. Everyone dug or was dug out relatively intact and relatively quickly, and they made it to the chalet in relatively no time at all. It turned out that they had to hole up for a couple of days and so, to pass the time, they played poker.

Some three days go by and Wormer is losing steadily to Bohr and Heisenberg. He has to throw his hand in again and again because he just can’t play against such madmen who bluff crazily, nonsensically, and irrationally while they make jokes about anti-matter and Schrodinger potentialities when they are looking at three of a kind and more.

On the evening of the fourth night it is just the three of them left. Wormer is playing on markers and Bohr has taken to talking aloud with Einstein. Heisenberg deals a hand of seven card stud and Wormer comes ups with a straight flush, natural, King-high in clubs on the first five cards; 10, J, K showing. Bohr has a possible straight flush himself, the J, Q, K of diamonds, and Heisenberg deals himself three sevens as neat as could be. Wormer is wondering where he can come up with the scratch to write his markers as the betting goes around again, and he gets his ace, Niels gets his ten and Heisenberg comes up with the fourth seven. Bohr is mumbling at Einie and kicking the pot.

“So,” he says, “Schrodinger made it distasteful, yes, he did. Too many uncertainties, yes. Bump that five. Yes. Too much chaos, hey? God does not play dice with the universe, right? But, again, that is our anthropomorphic disposition. Is it not possible–bump that ten–that the element of randomness is so powerful and pervasive that It is in fact identical with any notion of God we might have? A black God for sure, but a God nonetheless. We play god, each of us, when we manipulate the nuclei of atoms, do we not, and we ourselves introduce elements of chance that had not existed before our intrusion into the subatomic structure, yes. Ten more. Our ability to construe reality is as much a fundament of the process as are the atoms we dissect and the tools we use. I know you do not like that idea, but it is unquestionably a fact of our existence that belief shapes reality. Yes. Yes, you’re right: that is my own belief, actually, but hasn’t it been proven again and again? It is a verifiable hypothesis.

“You are not convinced. Heisenberg is convinced. He folds his hand. Heisenberg is convinced I have a straight flush. Ah, Wormer is not convinced. Or rather, Wormer, is convinced that he has a straight flush himself. But Wormer is on borrowed time and at a disadvantage in his suit. I am going to call you, Wormer. But not until I have bumped you again. There.”

Wormer knew he was caught. He had to bet, but he was convinced that Bohr had him beat. They never split the pot–it was all or nothing–and Wormer had never imagined that he would see the day when an ace-high straight would look like nothing.

“God does not play dice,” Bohr continued, “but in considering the vastness, and suddenness of potentialities that exist in our own minds, we must allow for as vast and sudden occurrences in the natural world outside our minds. If we had a unified field theory, I might be as disgusted by the notion of a dice-playing Creator as you are, but we do not have a unified field, not even in our own minds. Yes, you are right. We may as well consider this poker game a unified field according to the notion of consensual realities I have suggested. Yes. In fact, we should.

“In fact, this is a perfect laboratory!”

“Of the five fields, we know the least about gravity. The first four are sufficiently represented by the cards, our hands, the game, and the pot. Betting is gravity. Do you agree? Good. So maybe God plays poker. What do you think? I’ll ask: Wormer, does your God play poker?”

Heisenberg leaned back in his chair and strummed his folded hand. “Y-e-s-s-s,” he said, eventually. “Dice is too deterministic for my God. Human will can’t exist unless the possibility of chance, open space, also exists. My God wants to give human beings a chance.”

“And you, Wormer, does your God play dice? Or is poker His game?”

Wormer raised Bohr. Bohr bumped back. Wormer said, “My God acts according to the time. Impeccably. That is why He is my God. In church He prays and is worshipped. At home He cooks the food, eats, and is eaten. In the streets he argues, buys, trades, sells, weeps. Yes. He plays dice, and the players, and their hopes and their fears, and their loss and deliverance. My God is very busy, and He is never alone. God is never alone, and He enjoys poker.”

“Wormer’s God plays poker,” Bohr asked Wormer.

“Yes. God sometimes loses. Nietzsche beat him.”

Hearty chuckles and grunts were emitted all around.

“To you,” Wormer reminded Bohr.

“Of course,” he said. He peeked at the corner of his hole cards, smiling, jibing Einstein. “Of course. Talk about gravity! what …”

Wormer looked up to see Bohr’s jaw drop.

Bohr looked at Wormer and folded his hand.

Wormer said it took him a long moment for him to collect his thoughts enough to bring in the pot.

He suddenly realized that he was in sausages for the rest of his life.

“Did you have it?” Heisenberg asked quietly.

Wormer, caught in a newfound spirit of largesse, flipped over his hole cards before he finished clearing the table.

He sorted the bills from his markers a while before he noticed that an unnaturally thick silence was all around him.

He looked up as Heisenberg broke into his unmistakable laugh. It was always the best laugh the Wormer ever heard. Heartfelt and infectious it was, and Wormer had to smile to himself though he knew not why.

Heisenberg always enjoyed his laugh like no one Wormer ever knew before or since. He was howling. Tears came to his eyes. He held his stomach and gasped. He fell off his chair. He rolled over and staggered to his feet. He grabbed his chair and fell down again.

Bohr came in loud and clear at that point. He hooted. He yowled and pointed at Heisenberg. His face collapsed into an accordion of panic and then blew up from a choking yuk to a full-throated-leave-me-alone-again-Mother-I’m losing-it-loving-it-can’t-stand-it-here-again near-hysteria before Wormer could sit up straight and reach across the table to turn over Bohr’s hand.

There he saw the ace of hearts capping that sweet diamond straight. He half-smiled at the two of them and shrugged apologetically as the two younger members of their company came sleepy-eyed into the circle of the overhead lantern.

He looked down again at the cards splayed across the table and noticed that there was a queen of spades in his own royal club straight.

He smeared all the hands wide open. That was the way it lay. No one had slipped any cards, the deck was intact.

“God bluffs,” I said.

“That’s exactly what Heisenberg said!” Wormer looked amazed. “It was the turning point in my life.”

“Heisenberg would have won,” I said.

“Ya. He got his laughs.”

“What did Bohr say?”

“He said that God bluffs.”

“Everyone agreed then?”

“Everyone agreed, yes. Everyone agreed. And everyone won the Nobel Prize and died in dignity. Yes.”

“You made great contributions, Wormer,” pipes in my secretary.

“Yes, I did. Among the greatest. I know. I held to my God. Chances change, anyone loses. Anyone could have won. Heisenberg had the cards; Niels could have played me out; and so we joke and say God bluffs. As if we know the difference. As if we know the difference. You need the wisdom of innocence, all the luck of beginners, you hope you wind up in a hand you know you are playing, but still, but still, you got to remember God bluffs.”


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