Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Node Not Taken: A Thought Experiment

Please pardon the corny title. The pun just popped into my head, and I couldn't pass up the oppurtunity.

Anyway, let me begin. For the past week or so, I've been juggling around this idea of choice. Let's ignore the quagmire of free will vs. predestination for right now and assume that everyone has free will. If everyone has a free will, then every choice one person makes affects their life and everyone elses life in turn.

Then, take this idea of a single choice, and blow it up to include every choice ever made by that person. Then you have something like the web above. Every single choice a person makes is like a node on that web. And if you had all the nodes (ie choices) that a person makes, you could literally know everything about them; past, present, and future. You'd have a sort of Karmic Map.

And now, let's look at that Karmic Map for you or I, right here, right now. Imagine a giant blinking yellow arrow with the words "You are HERE" printed on it in black. You know, like the ones at a mall. Now, this arrow is pointing at a single node. But if you go left of that node, or in other words back in time, you'll find a near infinite number of choices that lead to this instant, this node. Even if you just examine the choices of ONE person, the web gets infinitely complex going backwards. If you add another person, two other people, or even every other person in existence, the web gets n-fold times more complex to the point that it'll just make your head go, "Ouch."

But if that part is complex, wait until we add one more dimension to the web. So far we have a single node at the HERE mark, and a web going backwards infinitely (or finitely, depending on the circumstances). Now imagine a node at every point along that web. At each of those nodes, you made a decision that led you to where you are today. But at the same time, at EACH OF THOSE NODES, there was the chance for a different web, a different branching off. Each node along the web also had the potential for a completely different path. But since you made a choice at each node, that node "collapsed," in the quantum sense, into the single path that you ended up taking. But before that decision, before you chose what path to take, a near infinite number of possibilities rested there.

Now, let's return to the present. You can see how complicated the past is. With all the things that happened, didn't happen, and could have happened contributing to the map, it gets quite complex. But at this present moment, at the Node of Now, there are those same infinite number of possibilities branching out. At this moment, right here, right now, the future could follow any number of an infinite number of paths with an infinite number of nodes. And until you make a choice causing all the other possibilities to collapse, they are all still there.

But lets take a more down to earth, personal example. Take college. For me, personally, I am at a college choosing node. Although this node, too, has an infinite number of paths leading from it, the only two that I will focus on right now are the most obvious and most probable ones that lead to Ursinus and to Villanova. Each of those paths had nodes that lead to a growth of two completely different webs. Two completely different lives. In a very literal sense, where I choose to go to college will determine the rest of my life. It will determine if I take the U or the V path. And either one I choose, I can never know what the other might have held.

A choice as simple as going to Ursinus or Villanova holds THAT MUCH POTENTIAL. Because as soon as I choose one or the other, the opposite path collapses into itself, permanently destroyed. Every choose along your life is like that. Whether it's the choice of college, which decides your life circumstances for the next 4 years, or the choice of going to that silly little party, which may very well determine your future life partner. Whether it's the choice of walking to school, where you're hit by a car, or taking the bus, where you arrive on time, perfectly intact. Every single choice along the path creates a new node and there's no way to know where they will lead.

I don't mean to propose a life paralyzed by choice, dictated by "what ifs." Rather, I propose the contemplation of the fact that every choice does matter and that often, NOT choosing is a choice unto itself. Sitting in a chair, ruminating on the future is a choice. A choice that leads down a path of non-participation and uselessness. Such a path, though guided by this though experiment, is far worse than a life completely ignorant of it.

I mean this thought experiment as more of an ode to the true beauty of reality. If this thought experiment proves true, then every second of every day contains limitless possibilty. The idea that life is linear could not be further from the truth. It may seem that way with a quick glimpse back, but that glimpse is an illusion.

This idea has can easily change ones view of life. Look at a baby, for example. What do you see? A small child? Is that all? I see all the future possibilies stemming out from that child. It can literally be ANYTHING and there's no way of knowing what it will become without letting the child grow. Just as an expecting mother is literally PREGNANT with POSSIBILITY, every moment, every person, every choice, is pregnant with their own infinite possibility.

And humbled by this fact, all that a person can do is choose wisely along this path known as life.

Or once again not choice, which is a choice unto itself.

Here's to a conscious, compassionate life.


1 comment:

davem said...

Interesting indeed. I'm not sure I've ever really thought of it that way. Sometimes I get too engrossed in my view with predestination. It doesn't really make sense at all from a human perspective and is perhaps the reason that I've been sucking at track. Maybe it's time for change, weeeeeeeeeeee