The Metaphysics of Wanting It All
In which I speculate about things much, much beyond the limits of my understanding.
In the multiverse, all things are true. Every possibility will happen, is happening, has already happened. In the blear of unreality following a nap, I want it all: I want to live in Charlotte and simultaneously live in Atlanta, in London, in Montevideo. I want to stay close to my family and simultaneously exist at the edges of the Earth, beyond reach. I want my relationship to last forever and simultaneously want a thousand other relationships. I want to inhabit the me of this universe and many others.
Schopenhauer theorized that the sum of the world’s phenomena is the product of a single metaphysical will. Universal principles of time and space don’t necessarily apply to other universes in the multiverse: It would be impossible to translate your consciousness from one to another. You couldn’t visit another universe; you couldn’t send a postcard back. Would Schopenhauer’s metaphysical will, unconscious and unseeing, extend across the otherwise uncrossable frontiers between universes? Are the universes themselves, with all their diverse phenomena, representations of the same will?
Thunder shakes the bed. Warm under the duvet, I wonder what it would mean to consciously inhabit the will of the multiverse, to be aware of every possibility unfolding at once. It’s impossible, even theoretically — an untenable recursive loop of will and consciousness. But in the melancholy late afternoon light, I unspool the impossibility.
I imagine a glimpse of the infinite being immediately lethal. Would it be worth the moment that kills you? The pain, the pleasure, the resulting, simultaneous insanity seems too much for any consciousness to contain. It’s hard to imagine being able to maintain both omniscience and existence. When confronted with omniscience, the existence must necessarily end, making omniscience an impossible state. But if one were the will, inseparable from the phenomena of the multiverse, ceasing to exist would mean everything else ceasing to exist, too. To know the infinite for an immeasurable moment would mean the end of it all.
The knowledge would be worthless. An unfathomable number of worlds would collapse into nothingness. Every conceivable and inconceivable possibility would become suddenly fruitless, and every barren universe would shrink out of existence, the last manifestation of a dying will. The absence of what was would converge to the size of a proton, containing infinite heat and mass — the raw debris of everything that could have been and, with enough energy, the raw materials of everything that could possibly be.
Originally published August 7, 2016.