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[personal profile] ch3cooh
LJ! Hi! you haven't read all of the same material, but I think these ideas are awesome, so, over the next few weeks, I'm going to post about them and see if I can maybe even have some awesome discussion.

The realistic and honestly pretty terrifying version of parallel universes that split exponentially as the realization of every choice that could have been made

Awesome things related to this topic:
This story by Borges: The Garden of Forking Paths
This painting by Escher: Angels and Demons
This startrek episode, particularly after 35:00: Star Trek TNG Season 7, Episode 11: Parallels
This old batman/superman movie: Justice League: Crisis on two Earths
and a little bit of Lovelock by Orson Scott Card and even some Fight Club (an awesome movie that I swear I won't spoil at all)

The Garden of Forking Paths is one of those stories where you can analyze the details of every sentence: where it is in the plot, why Borges chose one construction over another (a list vs. a quote vs. the narrator describing the scene) and sense purposeful creation.   Every detail down to the red and blue pencil makes sense (and also no sense at all...).  In short, this story describes (much better than I will be able to) the idea that all /possible/ timelines happen simultaneously.  I'm sure you've seen that one hundreds of times before.  But what Borges "specializes" in is (much like Terry Pratchett) starting with an idea that seems extraordinary, an impossible extreme, and then somehow making it only stranger from there... and then stranger and stranger until suddenly, you realize that it's common place and like the demonstration an optical illusion... you can't really tell when exactly it transitioned from the extreme of the impossible to the everyday experience, *shit, it's both*.  -- That's what Borges does.  So, to me, the striking thing about The Garden of Forking paths is not that it creates a plausible "parallel universe" model... but that it demonstrates that this one is not an abstract or exotic idea, instead we cannot help but perceive it every day around us.

To me, this parallel universe model "looks" like the Angels and Demons drawing - pick a point in time and space and human identity, and it becomes the center - the _obvious_ center in fact, from which stem infinitely many connected components - a network of people or a network of physical paths (a labyrinth) or a network of choices and causal relationships in time.  The paths are all different, but no single one is "special"  no single one happens - instead, they ALL happen, diverging out in variety, but sometimes, inexplicably, converging again... Just another parallel universe model, right.  But what is history?  Pick a dozen history books (and wikipedia of course) do they all really agree?  No - no one knows what happened, or, how - why was the battle delayed?  The reason given in the history book in the first paragraph? or because the axillary was attacked as a result of our narrator's actions.  I can easily think of my future as an exponentially branching set of paths, chaos - but is that not how I actually understand my history as well?  I'd like to think it was more "knowable" than the future, but do I really actually in any way know what happened and why, any better than I "know" what will happen?  (Alright... so maybe I should know a little better, but honestly, my memory sucks - the past does sometimes feel this way to me, especially important/emotional things:  "Was it something I said/did?"  "Was she really crazy, or was it me, or did I drive her crazy?"  "Did I really accomplish something purposefully, or did I just run around doing random stuff here and there and only in hindsight make up this unified person and motives and plan that fits what happened." 

Everyone I know rewrites history a bit.  To paraphrase Orson Scott Card's Lovelock (which has an awesome motif concerning the truth and lies of history) we erase and change what we can't live with, and some people definitely do so more than others.  The fat awkward mother can't live with the embarrassment of how she toppled across the zero-gravity chamber, so, moments after the scene, she's rewritten her memory in a sense to reflect that she handled it relatively well.  That's an extreme, but I know I've been tempted - to act as if an accident made me late to class, rather than my own choices -- because it could have been an accident... or something. *sigh*  I don't really know what I'm thinking when I think thoughts like that.  But, it goes the other way too -- right after the interview when you realize you had food on your face or something, and think "oh shoot, that's why one of the interviewers kept pawing at his face in that weird way he was trying to..." And you rewrite the history of what happened.  More emotionally, when that boy who you thought was enjoying spending time with you breaks it off, and you have to rewrite at least the last few weeks because he clearly wasn't happy after all..."  Have you had to rewrite your own history that way?  Have you made someone else do so? Have you jumpped between dozens of miserable possible histories when you don't /know/ quite enough to know which (if any) happened... but hate them all?

So, it's not so much a stretch, to see time as a hyperbolic web - the now and your own perspective at the "obvious" center, but all other possibilities, both past and present and other people in simultaneous existence reaching out in an exponentially growing labyrinth on all sides.  But, if you "admit" all pasts and thus necessarily futures are "parallel," to an extent, what then?  Do you try to compress them, to grasp more tightly to your "one," to make each good in it's own right?  It's hard for me to think about this question - perhaps it would be easier to momentarily return to the more astronomical perspective of "parallel universes" and consider this choice there, then see if it reduces down.  So, when I first saw Star Trek: Parallels, I was honestly actually annoyed with how calm everyone seemed about all possible worlds existing at once -- many in which friends had died, one in which the enterprise was still in conflict with the borg, Riker driven mad by the neverending war.  One Riker, a captin of an enterprise for which Picard had been killed many years previously seemed moved to see his former commander alive on another ship.  But, other than that, almost everyone seemed content to part without exchange of knowledge or seeing lost friends... emotions seemed relatively low-key.  And I thought, "Well, I guess they only had an hour after all, you can't develop that kind of plot and the likely effects and emotions well in an hour... Honestly, I asannoyed that they had made a half-attempt.  :-P  On the other hand, in Justice League, the standard universe's Justice league is not content with saving only this this world... (I won't spoil it).

That's almost every major element in this web for me, but there's one more element that comes directly from Borhes: "The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past."  Informed, is that not something we can do with our Escher-model of time and choice?  If we move to another person, it is to "see through their eyes" or "in their shoes" or something.  But if we move to another "time" a /possible/ outcome of where we can see we stand - something that could happen, at the least, I can my myself feel as if it had happened, as if the path were completed.  And, I'm a little scared to say that I agree with the narrator - that when I have been conflicted or scared of a choice, effectively pretending it was made, that it is as irrevocable as the past /is/ the way to make it happen.  See: Fight Club -- I won't say more ;-).  If I ever needed to kill someone, I think I would be able to overcome the mental barrier I have against doing so by, in the moment (or even the moments before) placing myself (my perspective at least) in the world where it was already done and I'm already reacting to the consequences. 

Thus, I can't avoid this parallel universe theory -- not in the physics/astronomy sense: don't believe in parallel universes in that way -- but only in my perspective, there it's frightening, but unavoidably a part of how I work.  Enough for now (and no worries if you only skimmed to here, that's more than I expected).  But, yeah... I wish my HASS class was filled with discussion like this... :)

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