Hey, everyone, continuing our TED Audio Collective Friday series, something a little different today, an episode from another TED podcast, Ted Shorts, featuring writer and drag performer Amaroo Al-Qadi. This might sound a little wild, but it's fascinating. Al-Qadi uses the paradoxes of quantum physics to better understand identity. If you enjoy it on Ted Schwartz, wherever you're listening to this.
Contradictions have come to govern my life as a queer person raised Muslim contradictions of belief systems almost tore me apart scientifically. The very foundation of our world is full of contradictions. Quantum physics is a glorious and strange sect of physics that caused quite a stir in the 20th century world of science, whereas classical Newtonian physics was ostensibly interested in observable reality on a kind of macro scale and was interested in finding the fixed rules and formula that govern our universe at large. Quantum physics is interested in the very smallest things in our universe.
For quantum physicists, atoms are huge. Even the things that make up atoms, neutrons, protons, electrons that huge quantum physics is interested in the very smallest subatomic particles. The Higgs boson leptons, quarks and the way that these subatomic particles behave has defied what we thought were the fixed principles of our universe. So I'll explain this with the most simple experiment, which is the most famous experiment, which is basically you have a wall with two slits and you fire an electron through the wall and the electron will either go through the left or right and will be detected on the reader on the other end.
But every now and then, the same electron finds itself going through both holes at the same time, and it's detected in two places. So the same electron finds itself in more than one place. At the same time, they kind of revealed that reality was a set of constructs. So by that, I mean we can only really observe an abstracted or a kind of limited version of the multiple events happening at the core of things. And so with this knowledge, I decided to do something that I promised myself I would.
And since the age of 13, I reread the Koran. I wanted to see if there was anything I could find in there that would help me find harmony between my career and Islamic identity, as if both could coexist in me simultaneously, like those mischievous subatomic particles.
When I reread the Koran, I came across these two wonderful passages about Allah that he is the one who shapes you in the room as he pleases and of his signs. It's the creation of the heavens and the earth and the differences of your tongues and colors.
The first time I read that, it was the first time I could hold the Koran without an urge to repel it here it was in this ancient text, the idea that difference and variance was all part of Allah's plan. Maybe Allah treats human beings in the same way. I love to think about marine aquatics as a kind of collection of interchanging, formless bodies that all coexist as one colorful mass. I'd always pictured Allah as a kind of fascistic punisher who built the universe on rigid lines.
But the more I read the Koran, it kind of sin that Allah envisioned the universe in the same model of quantum physics, chaotic and full of multiplicity. The more I read, the more I found. When I first learned about whirling dervishes, YouTube, of all places, was the space I could most directly see myself. And I couldn't believe the stuff I was seeing Muslims wearing big billowing white skirts that would outdo Kim Kardashian on her wedding day, limping their wrists and twirling around to the sound of an imam singing.
I directly identified with the Muslims I was seeing on screen who are each searching for higher meaning through costume ritual music. I realized that I'm doing the exact same thing every time I'm in drag. I'm searching for a transcendental connection, which is sort of brought to me through the collective queer energy of the audience. Now, before a drag show, I actually like to do Muslim prayers, and it helps me to feel really spiritually grounded and his show is a kind of religious experience.
Aroon United in the in the sort of celebration of queerness and difference. When a show goes particularly well, it gives me a kind of faith, a faith that maybe even Allah's plan was for me to twirl around on a skirt on stage to find not only myself, but Allah like Surfest Muslims centuries before me. So I'm not a fully traditional Muslim. You know what you think is the normal sense now? But I found great peace and thinking of Allah as a kind of genderqueer matriarchal protector, sort of like an aquatic being with the very pronoun they flow through me and tell me to embody all the contradicting subatomic particles that make me who I am.
I used to think that I didn't belong in this universe because of contradictions, contradictions, and now the reason I know I belong firmly in this universe. So the next time you find yourself battling a contradiction of ideas, beliefs or identities, don't run away from them. Instead, bask in the puzzle of who you are for in multiplicity.
There is magic PR x.