THIS IS US

Entangled

When we interact meaningfully with someone, maybe in some way, we stay connected forever

Photo: Artur Debat/Getty Images

It is the curse of the humanist to want all the laws of science to apply to people too. I confess to being cursed in that way. A few years ago, when I was researching my novel Weather Woman and was reading a lot of science, I became captivated by the theory of entanglement, which refers to the idea that once two particles have interacted they thereafter always respond in relationship to one another, even when far apart. In a 1935 paper, Albert Einstein called the phenomenon “spooky action at a distance.”

Being a person who thinks more about people than about particles, I did the thing that scientists abhor: I transferred this idea of entanglement to my understanding of human behavior, a subject of endless fascination for me. Do people behave as particles do? Do we always respond in some way to those with whom we have interacted meaningfully? I began examining my own relationships, thinking about people from my past who I no longer see but who I still think about, in particular, people with whom there is something unresolved. Have these people imprinted me in some way? Have I imprinted them too? Do we still behave in relationship to one another?

I had to test this theory, so I did some digging to locate a man I haven’t seen for some decades. We met when we were in our twenties. A spontaneous road trip with friends had taken me to a distant city where this man and I formed an instantaneous and magical connection. We spent several days in each other’s company, talking, frolicking, making out. He gave me a basket he had lined with velvet that is still in my possession. He had a girlfriend at the time and I had a boyfriend, but none of that seemed to matter.

After I returned home, we exchanged a few letters and made plans for another get-together that never happened. We lived too far from one another, and we were both too practical and too ensconced in our lives (and our other lovers) to stay in any kind of relationship. Our connection fizzled, but the memory of those few days lingered powerfully, not as regret but as a memory of intensity, passion, and fondness. Did he occasionally think of me as I thought of him?

He wasn’t easy to find. I sent an exploratory email to “info@” at a company I thought was his. Testing the waters, I didn’t say much of a personal nature. I was thrilled to receive an email in return. It was his company and of course he remembered me. Also fondly. He remembered the passion too. We exchanged a few emails then let it go, happy to understand how we’d imprinted each other and both retained similar memories.

A second confirmation of my nonscientific theory came more recently. I’d been haunted for decades by a falling out I’d had with a dear friend. We made films together on the streets of New York. We often laughed uncontrollably. For several years, we were inseparable. It is hard to remember the details that led to our impasse, but over the years, I’ve had many dreams of reconciliation. I felt I’d behaved badly and regretted it deeply. I missed her. Did she also have such regrets and dreams?

She was the one who got in touch with me after my recent ALS diagnosis. She, too, remembered how bonded we were. Entangled. And she, too, had harbored regrets for years. After being best buds, miles and years apart, we were still mirroring one another. We are now back in touch, picking up the friendship where we left off, trying not to mourn those lost years of connection.

These two anecdotal experiences prove nothing, of course, and while I could report more, my own experiences will never serve as scientific proof. But intuition tells me I’m onto something. I believe our cells (neurons in particular) remember, and that every interaction we have with another human being imprints itself upon us in some way. I imagine Einstein must be rolling over in his grave as I write this, but maybe not; maybe this is exactly where his spooky particles research would eventually have taken him.

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