Parallel U(niverse)s

You may have noticed that I like to explore metaphors & symbols as ways to make an idea more tangible & concrete. It’s a bit of a game to see how far I can push the boundaries of the metaphor before it becomes a bit brittle or forced. A book that I recently finished has become the source for another metaphor for me to explore, as it relates to personal growth & possibilities.

Brian Greene is a professor at Columbia University and a prominent researcher and author of many books about modern physics. On a side note, after reading his first book, “The Elegant Universe”, I was so impressed & inspired that I decided to send an email expressing my thanks and to ask a few novice questions. To my surprise, he quickly replied with additional insights. It impresses me when someone takes the time to acknowledge & respond to out-of-the-blue questions from the average person.

His book published in 2011, “The Hidden Reality”, is his attempt to bring everyone up to speed on the theories being explored by physicists to explain our reality. The material is pretty heady but he does an admirable job of making it approachable and enjoyable. I personally find that stretching into concepts like this is like mental calisthenics, and it gives my brain a workout.

In reviewing our path to understanding how the universe has come to be, there has been an interesting evolution in thought over the past few hundred years. We used to have a very privileged view of ourselves, believing to be the centre of existence. Over time, this view has changed considerably as we observe deeper into the reality around us, and to formulate new theories about how things came to be.

Let’s start with that idea and how it relates to how we view ourselves. In Life Skills Coaching, we learned about the concept of “balanced self-determined behaviour”. It’s the approach to framing our actions in a manner that looks after our own self-interests but not at the expense of others. We acknowledge and respect others, we don’t act selfishly and only consider ourselves, but we understand that there is a connection between us & others. I believe we are evolving as individuals to have a much better understanding of how we can relate & behave responsibly. We are not the centre of existence and we can reset the influence of our ego.

For the longest time, many of the greatest thinkers in history felt that the heavens were static & unchanging. The stars were fixed & permanent. Even Einstein had this view that the universe was unchanging and famously went back to slightly revise his equations to account for a static universe when others around him questioned this view. Only once observations were made that the universe is indeed expanding did we come to realize how dynamic its evolution has been and continues to be.

As we get older, we can become set in our ways and feel less able to change. We sometimes even resist change, forcing constraints upon ourselves with our beliefs & stories. I imagine what the general opinion might’ve been around the time when it was revealed that the universe was expanding & dynamic. There was likely disbelief and resistance, but also wonder and curiosity. I see that as the continual opportunity for me – to view myself as dynamic & changing, ever able to grow & learn. And another minor observation: the universe doesn’t expand into available space… it is itself expanding. This helps me to remove the belief that there are external boundaries or constraints. Sure, there will always be practicalities to consider but if I can remove my own self-limiting beliefs right from the start, I’ll be in a much better place.

One of the central themes that has emerged over the past hundred years in physics is the role that probability plays in how our reality unfolds. We’ve moved away from the highly deterministic & mechanical view of the universe into one where things happen based on probabilities.

I like to interpret probabilities as “possibilities” when it comes to growth. Rather than believe that my life must follow a predetermined path based on what came before, I now look to the possibilities that may unfold, should I let them occur. This belief coupled with the idea of life being dynamic and ever-expanding encourages me to look for the possibilities of growth. Change can be scary when you’re used to the status-quo, but when I understand that this is a fundamental aspect of reality, I begin to lessen my resistance and give in to the possibilities that may unfold.

One of the ideas under scrutiny right now is that of parallel or multiple universe. Brian Greene does a wonderful job in outlining how many of the mathematical approaches being explored naturally lead to the idea of multiple universes. From a pure wonder perspective, I find this fascinating and awe inspiring. It also gives me an opportunity to envision the best possible result that I would aim for when I make a choice. Imagining the other versions of “me” encountering the same choice not only lets me play with possibilities, it’s also a chance for me to take an objective look at my scenario. It can be so challenging to remove the subjectivity from our perspective, but I find that imagining multiple universes gives me a chance to see things from the “outside”.

I guess the main takeaway I have from exploring a book like this is to be freer in my thinking and release my expectations (and those of other people) in order to be open to the possibilities that present themselves every day. Having a goal to work towards is important but understanding that we can’t control every scenario is equally important, to allow for flexibility, improvising and being open to chance.

Thank you for the time you’ve given to read this and I hope it has resonated with you in some way.