The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Multiverse
Read any modern physics textbook and among the string theory and the quantum mechanics, you’re sure to come across discussions of the multiverse. This is the idea that our universe is made up of many dimensions beyond the four that we’re familiar with — backwards and forwards, left and right, up and down, and time.
Physicists will explain that there are many more dimensions beyond those four, and some theories even take this idea further, talking about infinite other universes where every possibility that could ever be exists, right now.
Somewhere, out there in the multiverse, there’s a you with green hair smoking a pipe. Somewhere, out there in the multiverse, there’s a you wearing a porkpie hat, having a conversation with Nelson Mandela while you both try to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Somewhere, out there in the multiverse, there’s a you tap dancing to Taylor Swift while cooking an omelette.
In the multiverse anything and everything can happen, is happening, and will happen. That’s the nature of the multiverse. It’s an infinite monkey cage, where a chimp has just finished authoring new modern interpretation of Twelfth Night, while another has just started writing the second volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
The thing about the multiverse is that while it is entirely provable with complex scientific equations (Stephen Hawking wrote about it, as did Lisa Randall), it’s unlikely that we’ll ever find a way to move between these different dimensions. We will never develop a technology to jump from one possible universe to another to have a conversation with ourselves as a cat wearing a bow tie. Although, right now, somewhere out there, a version of you is doing just that. They just haven’t made it to our part of the multiverse yet, where that kind of thing is currently impossible.
Unless, that is, we already have the technology.
The idea of the multiverse suggests that in an infinite expanse of possibilities, if we can imagine it, it is happening somewhere out there. So it makes some sense, perhaps, that if we are imagining it, then we are — for all intents and purposes — already paying a visit to that other universe. We haven’t used a spaceship, or a rocket, but we’ve used that equipment we’ve already been blessed with. What if our imagination was a actually an apparatus for transdimensional travel?
I know, right? But stick with me, because we’re taking this train all the way to the end of the line.
Consider this for a moment. Every day we all exist in more than one plane of reality, most of the time. We’ve always done it, and we do it so much that it’s totally normal and we don’t even think about it. You may scoff and think I’ve lost my marbles, but right now you exist in at least two planes of reality. You are where you are in the physical world — maybe you’re sat on the train, or at your desk in the office, or on the sofa at home with your iPad — but a part of you is connected to me through the wormhole of this essay. You are in your physical space, but you are somewhere else too.
If you’re listening to music while you read this, you’re in a third dimension at the same time. Connected to the musician performing their composition, connected to them through space and time. And if you’re reading this while listening to music and eating a doughnut, you are also connected to the baker who made it — joined by an ethereal thread to the moment they mixed the flour and the sugar and the egg to make the sweet treat you’re tucking into now. That’s another plane of existence.
When I read Shakespeare, my mind and the mind of The Bard are joined together through thoughts and pictures, that travel backwards from my time and forwards from his, to meet somewhere out there in the multiverse. When I see people on the bus, staring into space, lost in their thoughts, they are in this physical space, and some other space too, where either their dreams are realised, their worst fears become real, or their problems are solved. Or maybe they’re just thinking about what they had for dinner last night.
When you sit at a table you are connected to the carpenter who made it, as your hand touches its surface, you connect with the efforts he made to fashion it from a piece of wood. And both you and he are connected to the tree from where the wood was sourced, to the tree as a sapling, to the tree as a seed.
When you watch a TV drama you are both at home on the sofa and also in the world of the script writers and the reality they’ve created. When you walk with your headphones you are are existing in two spaces at once. When you are asleep your body is in this world, but your mind is somewhere else altogether.
We are always in more than one dimension. We are always connected to someone, or something, that either exists now, in the past or future, or somewhere in the multiverse, through the portal of our imagination. Right now I’m shaking hands with the programmers at Microsoft who coded the version of Word that I’m using to type this on my iPad on the train. I’m breaking bread with the farmer who grew the wheat for the bread in the sandwich I’m eating. I’m sharing a moment with every person who should ever read this far in this little essay. I hope they keep reading to the end.
This may seem like an abstract concept, but it’s important and I’m going somewhere with this.
The next time you pick up a cup of tea or coffee and hold it in your hand, recognise that, once upon a time, that same cup was held in the hand of a potter, giving it form and applying the glaze. Through that mug you have a connection that travels backwards through space and time. Maybe a week, maybe ten years — if it’s an antique cup perhaps a hundred years — but you are connected to someone who made that cup. And you are connected to everyone who has ever drunk from the cup, and to everyone who grew the coffee beans and tea leaves that made every cup of tea or coffee that has ever been drunk from that cup.
The lump of clay with the destiny of becoming the cup was already the cup long before it had been dug out of the earth. Just as a seed is destined to become a plant, or a puppy to become a dog. They are what they are right now, and everything they are destined to become, because it is certain and absolute and already real, if you can see beyond the confines and restrictions of the idea of time.
The oak tree stirs, for the moment just a dream within the acorn.
Your connections, which join you to all those people, those places and events, travel in every direction, into the future, into the past, to different places in this dimension and all the others. That connection puts you on a continuum that joins you with everyone who exists right now, who has ever existed, and who will ever exist. That continuum connects every atom in the universe, every thought that has been or will be, every moment, every possibility, every opportunity.
We are all part of the same, infinite continuum of the multiverse. And just as Shakespeare, hunched over his table with his quill in his hand, was building a connection with billions of people across time and space as he wrote the words of Romeo and Juliette, so you are connected to everyone and everything. And that includes every dream you will ever have, every thing you could ever achieve, and every possible outcome that could occur.
These connections are infinite. And we all have them. It’s a tightly woven tapestry of connections that is there for us to explore, to wonder about and wander through in awe, and to transmit our ideas, our emotions, our actions and our energy. We are all connected — I walk on the same earth as you, we breathe the same air, look up at the same moon. When we realise that the divisions that separate us are more abstract than the ethereal threads that join us, we should look more kindly upon those on our plane of reality, and those on every other plane.
We are all one. Every person, with our ideas, dreams, actions and realities. We exist everywhere in every manifestation all at once. When we allow our thoughts to transcend time and space, we know that we are infinite. There’s nothing stopping us from being anywhere we want to be, from doing anything we want to do, from sending loving kindness to everyone and everything that we’re connected to.
When we know that we exist in an infinitely free Universe, the things that are holding us back become less significant. When we realise we can go anywhere at any time, do anything, be anyone, then all the things that we are attached to, the stuff and the thoughts and the excuses and the insecurities, they all fall away to reveal something much more important, much more vital.