Sunday, January 30, 2011

Alternate Universes: One is Never Enough

Any significant change in life, like retiring or falling under a bus, can leave us forsaking our early moral training in a panic to ransack our shady mental catalog of "Things We Could Pretend We Can Do Instead of Things We Actually Made a Decent Living Doing." Transition, as the "culture of therapy" reminds us, is stressful and leads to intense anxiety, mental turmoil, psychic upheaval, hives, existential dread - what Sartre aptly called "nausea" and Kierkegaard (less picturesquely) "fear and trembling."  As my grandfather would have said, with more of the Sartrean flair, it's all driving him bughouse. It causes the sober person to forsake the faithful amanuensis, Principle, for the strumpet Expediency. All this, to my ecstatic discovery, for naught. In my not-to-be-missed issue of the Manchester Guardian, I chanced upon an advertisement both timely and freighted with infinite comfort. As these works of prosody generally do, this one begins in feverish metaphysical hallucination soberly clothed as established and widely known fact:

Since the 1920's, quantum physicists have been trying to make sense of an uncomfortable and startling fact - that an infinite number of alternative universes exist. This jaw-dropping discovery was first made when, trying to pinpoint the exact location of an atomic particle, physicists found it  . . . had no single location. In other words, atomic particles have the ability to simultaneously exist in more than one place at a time.The only explanation for this is that particles don’t only exist in our universe—they can spark into existence in an infinite number of parallel universes as well. . . . But here’s where things get really interesting. Drawing on the above-mentioned scientific theory and merging it with 59 years of study into mysticism and the human mind, Burt Goldman has come to one shocking conclusion: In these alternate universes, alternate versions of YOU are living out their lives.

Alternative universes. Well, who knew? Except maybe for Max Planck and his fellow conspirators. I'll at least admit that it's jaw-dropping, uncomfortable and startling, though I can't fathom why quantum physicists should have tried to make any sense of it. Evidently they neglected making any sense of quantum physics, to its permanent detriment. As it turns out, particles, like transients, have "no single location." And like skateboarders on cobblestones, they can "simultaneously exist in more than one place at a time."

Alternative universes could be either good, or evil, I suppose How can you tell which sort of soup you might land in? And how does knowing this ease my concerns about what I'm supposed to be doing next? More to the point, will knowing this land a job or change my "skillset"?

Just because particles can exist in more than one place, Burt concludes, they must exist in infinite places, all rules being off.  Universes must be infinite because all those infinite particles need infinite places in which to vibrate about and particulate.  So . . .
 . . .  anything that can happen, does happen—in another universe. So in effect, there is a universe where Obama never won the election and another where Princess Diana is still alive. There is a universe where you are the King of Scotland and a universe where you are a tea farmer in China. A universe where you are a celebrity musician, and one where you busk on a pavement for spare change.

If that "in another universe" didn't pull the rug out from under you, then somewhere, in another universe, Republicans are not only happy but eternally vindicated by any election outcome whatever; another universe in which Princess Diana is still a princess but doesn't have to put up with the Old Bat in Buckingham Palace; another universe in which you get to be royalty and maybe even meet Diana socially. It's Something for Everyone. 

And since particles need not exist only in our universe, we needn't either. I think you'll agree with Burt Goldman, here's where things get really interesting. But for the inevitable skeptic there will be lingering questions, foremost perhaps, how do parallel universes come to be? How, if you are born in this universe, are there now an infinite number of dimensions where you exist simultaneously? This may seem the stuff of existential nightmares, but the theory, says Burt, is simple: 

Every decision you make in life causes a "split" in reality 
 [or, alternatively, every decision you make in "life" causes a split in "reality"]
. . . which in turn creates two alternate universes—one where the current version of you is today, and another with the version of you who made a different choice. Now think
about all the decisions you’ve made that led to who you are today. If all these decisions caused a split in your reality, each time creating a new version of yourself in a parallel universe who also goes on to make a certain set of choices thereby splitting their reality, you can begin to imagine the infinite versions of yourself that exist. 

This is sounding like a cosmic dating service with a large pool of candidates you can't help but like. Burt supplies a helpful graphic of such a gaggle of universes, which he calls the "Bubble Universe Theory" (not visible by the Hubble Telescope) - to paraphrase the Apostolic Creed, Hubbles within bubbles, worlds without end, Amen.

Burt's Bubble Universe (not actual size)

Here is a mental experiment designed to induce vertigo, which in my case always leaves me agreeing with Sartre - not a position I willingly assume. Worse than that, the rules of logic, which keep us all more or less sane and allow us to converse together, no longer include the Rule of Exclusive Disjunction, or the Principle of the Road Not Taken, which at its simplest says that if I turn right I can't turn left, if I eat my cake I can't have it. No worry, says Burt. Anything you do splits reality into infinite fractals of choices, options, possibilities and (best of all) facts (you're King/Queen of Scotland, both at once, like one of those particles.) This way lies madness - "splitting reality" is just another way of saying "creating your own reality" which is one rationale I'll buy every time for tying anyone up and driving them straight to the bughouse. 

None of this gives Burt the slightest pause. People can create "their reality," he insists, just as heat (energy) changes the physical state of water by vibrating its particles. . . . "And just like heat, our thoughts too are energy."  The argument from analogy is generally fatal (energy equals heat, our thoughts, our heated thoughts, etc. That's how we got from the watchmaker who just makes watches to "The Watchmaker" who makes Everything, remember.) And to remind us, in case we've forgotten that everything is merely illusion in this frazzled universe of oscillating neutrinos, the ad incorporates this helpful graphic of a chair as a handy reminder of what "thing" means, as in "Get that thing out of my living room."
In alternate universes, everything you desire has already taken place. "But how, might you be asking, does one access these alternate realities?" That’s where Quantum Jumping comes in. Quantum Jumping is the process of “jumping” into parallel dimensions, and gaining creativity, knowledge, wisdom, skills and inspiration from alternate versions of yourself. . . .through . . . "thought transference." . . . . Quantum Physics has proven that our physical reality is nothing but a very elaborate mirage. A super-hologram of information and energy. 

In the Burtean cosmos, an elephant can elevate as easily as an electron, a neurosurgeon is as nimble as a neutrino, a quack is as quick as a quark. It does not come without practice. Here's a helpful video to show how it works.

Thought Transference in Practice


There might be something to this business of alternate universes if all you mean is what Swami Vivekenanda said, much better, that, "All consciousness, all personalities, in fact all matter, is but a holographic projection of a super-consciousness bent on entertaining itself." 

Welcome to the Infinite You, Burt concludes. What he really means is, Welcome to the Infinite You,  you Comedian you! 

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