Choose your own world

11 Apr

If you could live in a world of your choice, which would it be?

Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams dwelt on this, where Einstein dreamt of different worlds, with time behaving differently in each one, and how the behavior and thoughts of people in these worlds differed.

When my friend mentioned the novel to me and sent me a copy from halfway around the world as a birthday gift (Thank you!!!), I knew it was a must-read. It is a book where there is no protagonist or antagonist. Just “what if?”

Some of the worlds Einstein dreamed of included one where time is a circle and every occurrence repeats itself; a world where certain unfortunate individuals are transported back in time, very careful not to distrub anything lest they be the cause of something that will change the course of the future; an acausal world where the effect sometimes precedes the cause; where the end of time is known; where time stands still at the center of time; where people do not remember; where time flows backwards; where people live just one day; where people live forever; where time cannot be measured; where time is a visible dimension; where time continually stops and starts; where time are birds – catch one and you stop time until the birds expire; where time bounces back and forth producing countless copies; where the future is fixed.

Of the worlds mentioned, these are my three favorite:

1. The world where the passage of time brings increasing order.

This appealed to the practical, lazy side of me. For people who find cleaning up among the least of our priorities, sitting back and letting things come into order on their own is a dream come true 🙂

2. The world of unexpected visions

With most people trying to find the answer to the question “What is my purpose in this world?” (me included), this world is ideal. Here, people go about their activities until they are hit with the vision of what they are meant to do and be in their lifetime. Those who do are guaranteed success. Most drop whatever their doing – writing that book, building that bridge – once their vision arrives which can be at any point in their lives.

Surprisingly though, there are still some who choose not to follow their vision and choose to pursue something else, risking unfulfillment and disappointment. Freedom of choice still exists and it is essentially up to you which road to follow.

3. The acausal world where people live in the moment

People in this world might as well shout Carpe diem! In the normal world, people plan and act relying on the logic that their activities will result in something rewarding. But in this world, events are unpredictable.

It is a world where science is junked and people live in the now because the past has an uncertain effect on the future and the present likewise has a non-linear effect on the future. I love how people here are loved not because they can return favors if you love them, but simply because they are lovable. Mistakes of the past are immaterial and there are no hidden motives. People say what they want and do what they do, unmindful of any consequences because in this world, there are none. It is a place where people are honest, forgiving and unselfish.

That a physicist should write a book with these many worlds and discuss them with the profundity that he had should come as no surprise. It is how he managed to create one world different from the others and how their citizens behaved that was pleasantly surprising. Call me biased, but I did not think physicists could be literary nor romantic. My heart goes out to his characters who would suffer in silence through time, their thoughts withheld from the objects of their affection, presenting a painful nostalgia for the reader who can only watch.

In my room where I’ve been spending a good part of my free time, no thanks to being sick for the past three weeks or so, time is measured by the number of medicines taken, places I want to visit that I’ve listed, conversations with myself be it dumb or intelligent, and comments made on friends’ facebook accounts. I look at the mirror and notice a tiny wrinkle forming at the corner of my eye and know I cannot stop time even if I wanted to. Maybe I’ll do like Einstein and dream instead.


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