A Watched Pot Never Sneezes

We all know that a watched pot never boils, but I’d always assumed that it never seemed to boil because when you’re standing there watching as opposed to doing something else, time crawls. But I’m beginning to wonder: could something quite different be going on here? Of course the watched pot does eventually boil (in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics, as OH keeps reminding me) but what if observing not only seems to slow it down but actually does slow it down? I have a feeling that this is a scientifically understood phenomenon, that observing a process without any other interference can change that phenomenon. It could be in quantum mechanics, I’m not sure; OH will correct me if I’m wrong. I would suggest timing the watched pot, were it not that timing is in itself a form of observation. It’s like those fitbit things people use to measure their sleep: there’s no way of knowing how much you sleep without the fitbit on your wrist.

Anyway I know from experience that watching a phenomenon can change it, sometimes dramatically. If you want to break a habit the best way is not to force yourself to abstain but to observe, to watch the thoughts and feelings that surround the habit and which are the key to letting it go. A propos of which, I decided to try an experiment. I have a condition called allergic rhinitis – which I suspect is just a name given to something they can’t explain – whereby my nose runs and I sneeze a lot without any external stimulus. This is compounded by eating milk products, so I should avoid dairy altogether. But I like cheese! Cow’s milk and yoghurt I can live without but there is no substitute for cheese. Be that as it may, I wondered: could sneezing be a habit that might be controlled by observing it? Or to put it another way, might a watched nostril never sternutate? I decided to give it a try. I would keep a record of how often I sneezed and how many times.

I’ll keep you posted. Bet you’re on the edge of your seats…

Kirk out