Born into a multiverse where apparently “everything that can happen does happen”, how can we make sense of that one particular precisely describable exactness in which we find ourselves?
In a multiverse where Everything That Can Happen Does Happen, it is unsettling to notice that there does not appear to be any clear answer to the obvious question: why this and only this? Why not any of the remaining infinite list of possibilities instead? Apart from the obvious answer (because I don’t) why don’t I find myself being someone else, another species on a planet with 4 moons, where each of the moons really is made of a different variety of cheese?
Why this, why here, why me, why us, why now? Why do I find myself being this particular person, not some other? Why this and only this? Why now, and only now? Why do I find myself located as the 4th child of educated middle-middle-class parents brought up in rural England, in last part of the “2nd Millennium”. If in some sense consciousness finds itself opening onto a smorgasbord of scenarios and story arcs, what am I to make of the apparent good and bad fortune that has arisen in my and our own particular cases?
The mundane banality; the contrast of the apparently infinite multiverse (how could it not be infinite given that it is at all) to the excruciating exactness of this, here and now; the pettiness of my day-to-day concerns shown up in silhouette against the background of infinite possibility.
Apparently I have arisen as a particular person, and only that particular person — no other. And my being-in-the-world is not able to see past this particularity; the exact circumstances of my mundane day-to-day existence.
Apparently anything is possible, and yet as it turns out for each of us, only one thing is possible, and right now you’re staring at it… Not the inexhaustible horizon of possibility, but the already having been total used up horizon of these particular circumstances, these particular friends, this particular house and this particular room. This body. These thoughts.
In the face of this befuddlement, it is natural to want to distract ourselves with, well, you know… whatever:
celebs, gossip, having it more together than the neighbours, success as agreed upon by the consensus view, sexual prowess, my family blossoming and thriving, the garden, the leisure activities, the current affairs, the politics, the cricket club or the rugby club or the football club, or the weekends away, or the round-the-world trips, or the latest gadgets, or the latest apps, or the interior design makeovers, or plastic surgery makeovers, or the new set of clothes, or the parties and celebrations — someone’s getting married, someone just died, someone was just born — or my culture, my religious faith, my spiritual discipline, my meditation practice, my social-media following, my endless series of one-night-stands, my 30-year relationship, my children, my grandchildren, my dogs, my fantastic friends and family, my medium articles, my innovative entrepreneurship, my new disruptive technology, my latest app, my career trajectory, my holiday that I’ve got coming up, my yacht, my cars, my business empire, my CD collection, my stuff, my work for the betterment of humanity, the experience that I really do make a difference, my really robust mental health, my great sense of humour, my status at the centre of my local community, my talent as a surgeon, or a fighter pilot or a musician, the lives of the people I have helped, the life-saving operation I did on a child, the volunteer work I did for the Ebola victims, the Syrian refugees I welcomed in to my home, the protest marches I went on, the public office I carried out with service, integrity and dedication, the peace-deals I brokered, the technology I invented that mitigated climate-destabilisation, the whatever…
surely something here has got to matter, hasn’t it? Something has got to be meaningful? There has got to be some place where we can put our feet down on solid ground and say: “this is where I stand”.
So where do you stand?
If everything that can happen does happen, it seems to me that one consequence is that we do not need to worry too much about the outcomes of our projects, or the outcomes for our communities or our worlds, or the outcome of the universe or the multiverse as a whole. All the possible outcomes all happen: the outcomes we think of as better, and the outcomes we think of as worse. So while we should of course work as valiantly as we wish to for the outcomes we prefer, it does not need to be too much of a concern if we happen to find ourselves in a universe where the preferred outcome didn’t happen, rather than any of those universes where it does.