According to the “Many-Worlds Interpretation” of quantum physics, everything that could happen does happen in some reality. Put another way, every possible timeline manifests in some universe. Yes, that sounds wacky, but for many scientists it is less intellectually disturbing than the notion that observation somehow causes wave functions to instantaneously (and faster than the speed of light) collapse into particles. In this essay, I will refer to the notion of endlessly branching possible realities as the “Multiverse”.
Of course, each of us experiences only a single stream of reality as we make our way through our very personal adventure here within “Earth Game”.
One thing that can be learned from messages “channeled” from entities beyond our Earthly reality is how different is the perspective of those who gaze into our reality from a multidimensional vantage point. One observation that has been made is that in our reality we tend to assiduously and with great consistency create the same realities from day to day. And no, this is not in the context of re-creating similar problems or challenges in relationships or employment or whatever. Rather, they find it noteworthy that we create such a constancy in our individual physical realities. For instance (and here I put my own take on their insights), one’s home does not from day to day morph from bungalow to bi-level to two-story. Similarly, the landscape does not change much, and we use the same vehicle (whatever it might be) to commute on a regular basis to the same places we routinely go. And, the principal characters on the stage of one’s life don’t change a lot from day to day.
Let’s come back to the notion of a Multiverse. We do not, within Earth Game, hop back and forth between branches of the Multiverse. No, wherever we zig or zag, we carry on from there. Perhaps we create situational “do-overs”, but there are no crossovers between streams of reality.
All of this got me thinking. What if, through whatever cosmic event, the constancy of one’s journey through the Multiverse were disturbed? What if one’s past and present hopped about from storyline to storyline from day to day? Now, I’m not suggesting that happens or could happen or would be a good thing, but what if it did happen? Wouldn’t that make for an interesting story? I posit the following (fictional) plotline, while hereby irrevocably offering to waive copyright in favor of anyone inclined to make a story or script out of it:
- The protagonist (who for purposes of this exercise I will cast as male, even though switching the gender would work equally well) is in a rut. Same stuck job (most conveniently, a scientist; hmm, I wonder what Johnny Galecki is up to these days?), same stuck relationship, same in-a-rut daily comings and goings, same characters in a play that has slowly but inexorably become boring and almost lifeless.
- And then, something happens – the aforesaid cosmic event (which could be whatever one’s imagination might dream up). The protagonist wakes up one morning in a palpably different storyline. Each day after that, something (or perhaps many things) is markedly different. Different job, different spouse, different house, perhaps children where there had been none, or the reverse. Sort of a reversal of the notion in Groundhog Day or Palm Springs of always coming back to the same moment; here, each day is one step forward in the timeline, but here the timeline is different.
- The protagonist initially questions his own sanity, but he is reasonably certain he has not become delusional. What strikes him as remarkable is that he can lucidly remember both timelines, i.e., the one he previously experienced, as well as the one that led him to this reality.
- The differences encountered in a particular day could range from subtle to fundamental; the only limits would be imagination. For example: different President, different social structure altogether, or entirely different monetary system; smart phones never invented; cars drive on the left; having married an ex-girlfriend; having gone to law school; having experienced a crippling car crash; living in a different country.
- The one constant I would build into every timeline is that the protagonist would have exactly the same dog, who would serve as confidant while affording a convenient opportunity for narration (i.e., to the dog, not by the dog; dogs are natural therapists that way).
- Although the protagonist finds it somewhat dizzying and disorienting to have different roles and responsibilities each day, the branch of reality that took him to his current role also prepared him for it. He has all the memories (and skills) needed to navigate the particular timeline – but he also remembers every other timeline he has experienced (the aggregation of which becomes progressively dizzying and disorienting).
- Soon enough it dawns on the protagonist (who has at least some familiarity with Multiverse thinking and perhaps quantum physics generally) that he has somehow crossed the barrier that ordinarily limits one to a single timeline, i.e., keeps all branches of possible realities from becoming aware of other branches
- As the protagonist navigates the realities that change each day, he begins to find joy in the novelty that contrasts so sharply with the stuckness of his previous single-branch-of-the-Multiverse reality. He begins to see life as the game it is, and resolves to enjoy it to the fullest – knowing that a new and different round will begin the very next day. He learns to live more in the now, knowing that what he is experiencing today may be gone from tomorrow’s timeline.
- At some point (perhaps a few chapters or episodes in), the protagonist discovers that, when he is about to encounter something or someone for the first time in his current branch of the Multiverse, he can consciously design it, or alter it from what he recollects in that timeline. For instance, if he finds himself about to travel to his (current) family’s cabin or to his place of work, he can imagine it a particular way – and when he arrives, there it is, precisely as imagined. He also finds, though, that once he has physically observed a particular thing in that timeline, his ability to alter it vanishes; i.e., as suggested by quantum physics, observation crystallizes the particular reality.
- He even finds that he can, before opening his eyes and looking in a mirror upon awakening, improve upon his own appearance – again, by imagining it the way he wants it to be.
- Despite the sense of adventure and joy that the protagonist progressively develops, he finds himself wanting to understand the why and how of what has happened to him – especially since it is obvious that no other characters in the story are similarly jumping across branches of the Multiverse. He progressively becomes obsessed with finding a way to lock down his reality to a single timeline that does not alter with each morning’s awakening.
- From the above, the story could go anywhere a writer wants to go with it. If an ending (as opposed to a renewal) were the objective, perhaps the protagonist somehow finds his way back to his original timeline – only this time resolved to find joy and adventure in every moment of the endless now. (How’s that for a feel-good story with a feel-good message?)
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know if I can watch (or read) even one more story that is only about superheroes battling supervillains. Instead, let me imaginatively wish that creative folks begin to write stories that have no villains and no struggle between good and evil or dark and light, but some good mind-bending.
In the meantime, perhaps we can reflect that the design of our individual adventures within “Earth Game” deliberately includes a good measure of constancy in the timeline. And, we might even take a moment to feel grateful for that.