If 19th-century realism — say, Great Expectations — represents the Theater of the World, and 20th-century psychological realism shifts toward the Theater of the Mind, postrealistic work moves still further in that direction, emphasizing the exploration of the mind's constructs.
— Peter Turchi
In the full version of his essay "The Mental Universe," astronomer Richard Conn Henry, who taught me quantum physics in graduate school, wrote, "Yet a correct understanding of what physics does teach us was accessible even to Pythagoras: 'number is all things,' and numbers are nothing but mental." (Emphasis emphasized by Dr. Henry.) And he wrote, "With the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925, the whole problem was solved. The brighter physicists were led, just as Galileo had been, to 'believe the unbelievable,' in this case that the universe is mental." And he wrote, "Anyone who has learned to fully accept that nothing exists except the observations themselves, is light years ahead of peers who stumble through physics ever hoping to find out what things are."
That is, there are no things in the universe. The universe is a mental construct. It exists because we observe it.
Not an easy idea to embrace.
What interests me here and now is the convergence of Henry's universe-as-mental-construct and Turchi's notion of a literature that examines the mind's construct. Accept for a moment Henry's assertion about the universe — you can always go back the more comforting idea that you do, indeed, have a material existence. Then post-realistic fiction becomes an exploration of the nature of the universe by way of exploring how the mind uses language to construct meaning.
A new page or two of that would be a good day's work, don't you think?
Everywhere physicists look, the universe can be accurately described by mathematics. Was Pythagoras right? If the universe is a mental construct that can be described through mathematics, did anything exist before humans invented mathematics? Did we invent math? Or, one day, did we turn over a rock and there it was, waiting for us to pick it up and go create the universe with it?
I'll have to get back to you.