Birth, life, death. Birth, life, death. Birth, life, death.
Does that sound monotonous? In Hinduism, this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is considered so mundane and repetitive that it is viewed as a cycle of suffering, with the ultimate aim being to attain liberation or Moksha from this cycle. I, on the other hand, want to continue with this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Why? Because, for me, one life is simply not enough.
In one life, I can experience only so much. At present, what am I? I am a woman; I am a technical writer; I am a daughter, wife, and mother to someone.
In this life, what more can I hope to become? A grandmother? Professionally, I can perhaps move on to be a creative writer. Or maybe, I can switch to a completely new profession like wildlife photography. But that’s about it! And yet, there’s so much more that I want to experience. I want to be an astronaut, I want to be a banker, I want to be a spy.
Then, there are so many places that I want to see. Not just see, but experience. I want to experience life in America, not just as a tourist, but as someone living there. I want to go to Mexico, Canada, Australia, Germany, South Africa….
There are so many possibilities. Clearly one life is too short to experience all that. So what do you do When One Is Not Enough?
That is when you look for an alternate interpretation of life. I found that alternate interpretation, about 15 years ago, in a book called ‘One’ by Richard Bach. This book was based on the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics formulated by the American physicist, Hugh Everett.
The Many-Worlds or parallel universes theory says that all possible alternate histories and futures are real. In layman’s terms, this means there is an infinite number of parallel universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in your past, but did not, has occurred in your past in some other universe or universes.
Let me take an example to explain that. When I completed my graduation, I got admission to a post-graduation course and I got a job offer as well. I tried both the post-grad classes and the job for a week each, and then I decided to stick with the job because I was tired of studying and the job seemed well-suited. I also happened to meet my future husband at this job. Now consider if I had not taken up the job and had instead continued with my post-graduation in Economics. I would not only be in a different field, with a different career, but I would also have a different husband and child. And, as per the Many-Worlds theory, that’s exactly what has happened in an alternate universe.
At one level, the parallel universes or ‘Multiverse’ theory may seem a like a really wild idea, but it is completely supported by the mathematics of quantum mechanics. If you are interested in the mathematics, you can check it up in Everett’s paper on the Many-Worlds interpretation.
I support the Many-Worlds or Multiverse theory because it ties in neatly with my desire to experience multiple lives. It basically says every possible version of you exists out there. You can perceive only this specific life-path because this version of you is in it. It is a matter of perspective. When you are walking down a road, you can just see the road ahead of you and maybe a turn or two. That doesn’t mean there are no other roads out there. If you can fly up to the Google Earth satellite, you would be able to all the intricate twists and turns that you can take.
Similarly, if there was some way by which you could step back from this specific life-path, you would be able to get a long shot view in which you can see your alternate selves living parallel lives. Currently, there is no scientifically tested way of doing that. But I have got a vivid imagination. With some effort and audio-visual aids, I can visualize my alternate selves to some extent.
Let me share an example of how I use Multiverse theory to my advantage. Last year, we had planned a trip to France and Switzerland. We were quite excited about the trip. Then just about 10 days before the trip, I slipped on a pavement and fractured my left foot and we couldn’t go on the trip. I was of course disappointed and spent some time moping about it. Then I visualized an alternate life-path in which when I slipped on the pavement, I fell onto the road and a car passed right over me. I lost my left leg completely. I started feeling a bit better about my current life-path then. Next, I watched videos on all the places that we had planned to visit in Switzerland, I looked up nearby restaurants, read up about the places. Then I visualized an alternate life-path in which I hadn’t fallen, and we were able to make the trip as scheduled. As I had already seen the videos, I was able to visualize the entire trip quite well. Maybe it didn’t give 100% of the happiness that I would have got out of the trip in this version of reality, but it gave me about 40%.
This might seem like simple wishful thinking. To some extent, it is wishful thinking, but the Many-Worlds Interpretation does give it a certain legitimacy.
Another way in which I use the Multiverse interpretation is that if I need to take a decision, it helps me visualize the alternate lives I can lead because of my choices and that can help me nudge this version of my life in the direction that I like best.
Finally, the Many-worlds interpretation can also help you feel less anxious about future events. It helps you appreciate that what you perceive as reality is just one of many possible outcomes. If you can visualize alternate outcomes, you don’t need to dread any particular outcome. For instance, I wasn’t worried how this speech will go. Because, in a parallel universe, I have already delivered this speech, and you have already liked it!
Leena T Pandey
I have been reading voraciously since the age of five when I first discovered the joys of reading. I would lap up anything in print. Unrolling an emptied newspaper cone with one hand, stuffing roasted peanuts in my mouth with the other, all the while devouring the printed content on the cone with my eyes, was one of my first experiences in hedonistic pleasure.
In fact, sometimes I feel that I am on an adventurous journey through the secret dreamworld of other people's imaginations, interspersed with occasional visits to my own life to attend events like graduation, first job, marriage, and so on.
As a true-blue reader, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment on and critique other people's works of labour. I can tell exactly what puts the average reader to sleep, what sets their pulse racing, and what has them salivating for more.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.