I don’t have too much of an idea about it. I mean, I’m not talking about the normal choices (which colour for the house, which name for the baby and all), but, you know, the great and powerful concept of choice.
It is known from various sources that the things that matter in life are the paths you decide to take, not what really happens in the path. Which means, whatever happens in the whole path is predetermined at the instant you choose it over another. A huge bulk of pre-organized life waits at every crossroad. You do not have to live it, as I have heard. It has been laid down before you live it. The only time you live your life is the time you choose one pre-organized path over one or more alternatives. All of them have already-decided outcomes. What is not known till you decide for yourself, is which one of those pre-determined paths you are going to take, which one outcome will ultimately occur.
Once a path is chosen, it leads you like a moving staircase, and you glide along with it, until once again, it leads you to another crossroad, to another choice. That is when you live your life again, as you make another choice.
I have no basis for this belief, but I have known from more than one source that it is so. The question that remains is which choices are we talking about here? The really big and important choices, like love and family and philosophy, or even the really small ones, like which colour for the house, which name for the baby?
There is a nice portrayal of the nature of choice and destiny in the Sandman Series which I have mentioned in one of my earlier articles. The oldest of the Seven Endless, as they are called — and that includes The Sandman, or Dream — is Destiny. Destiny has a garden, a garden of splitting, diverging paths. Paths which lead to different places, paths which cross and paths which meet, but more importantly, paths which split into more than one path, and you never know which way one of those is going to take you before you actually choose to take that path. It is a garden which you cannot walk without making choices.
But you shall notice that once you have made a choice, you are left with nothing else to do but follow the path till it branches again. The paths of Destiny’s garden are laid out beforehand. Preset. But it is their inherent quality of presenting a multitude of choices, of options, which at the end of it all still lets the journey be yours. You will notice that there are a hundred different ways you could reach from one point to another in a maze like that. All of the paths are laid down before, no doubt, but which ones you take, that is up to you.
“Walk any path in Destiny’s garden and you will be forced to choose, not once, but many times. The paths fork and divide. With every step that you take through Destiny’s garden, you make a choice; and each choice determines future paths. However, at the end of a lifetime of walking you might look back, and see only one path stretching out behind you; or look ahead, and see only darkness. Sometimes you dream about the paths of Destiny, and speculate, to no purpose. Dream about the paths you took and the paths you didn’t take…The paths diverge and branch and reconnect; some say not even Destiny himself truly knows where each way will take you; where each twist and turn will lead. But even if Destiny could tell you, he will not. Destiny holds his secrets. The garden of Destiny. You would know it if you saw it. After all, you will wander it until you die. Or beyond. For the paths are long, and even in death there is no ending to them.”
— Neil Gaiman, Season of Mists (The Sandman series of graphic novels)
Heads and Tails
“Take the example of tossing a coin: it can come down heads or tails, and we don’t know before it lands which way it’s going to fall. If it comes down heads, that means that the possibility of its coming down tails has collapsed. Until that moment the two possibilities were equal.
“But on another world, it does come down tails. And when that happens, the two worlds split apart. I’m using the example of tossing a coin to make it clearer. In fact, these possibility-collapses happen at the level of elementary particles, but they happen in just the same way: one moment several things are possible, the next moment only one happens, and the rest don’t exist. Except that other worlds have sprung into being, on which they did happen.”
— Philip Pullman, Northern Lights.
Take the example of Destiny’s garden. You are faced with a fork, with two paths leading in two different ways. You know nothing about the paths, what they are like, where they lead, nothing except their primary distinguishing quality: one goes right and the other goes left. You are faced with a choice. You choose left, without ever knowing that not only did you choose left, but you chose right too, only in a different universe. The moment there comes a choice in question, and a choice is made, the universe diverges into two, in each of which a different choice has been made, regardless of which choice you actually made: left or right. You only know about left because you were retained in the universe that was created because of the left choice, not the right. Whereas, another version of the universe continues from that point onwards, only with you choosing right. In the end, no choice was actually made, because none of the options were eliminated. All of them came into being, but since a single universe of single space and time allows only one choice with only its consequent manifestation through itself, multiple universes are born, each bearing a different choice with different consequences of the choice through its own space and time. That is the power of choice. A difference means the whole universe from that point forward will be entirely different from what it would have been if the choice were made differently. A fork on your path necessarily means the universe itself forks out into two to allow both the choices to exist.
That leads us to a greater question: who creates these diverging universes, and why? Why won’t any choice be allowed to matter in the end? Who’s sitting up there allowing both choices to exist? Why won’t your choosing left or right ever matter? Why will there always be a different universe with the same you, only making the opposite choice? Well, maybe that’s how the clockwork of reason works, on a greater level. Eliminate no choices, but give them separate rooms to live in so each of them thinks they were the only one that ever existed. Let a person walk Destiny’s garden. He will reach the end by sunset, making a number of choices. He will think he took right first, then the middle road, then the dust-track that led off the garden-path, then the second door in a line of seven, and finally to the end of the garden. He is oblivious that if there were hundred ways to walk the garden, all hundred ways have been walked by sunset, only because he made the choices that gave birth to multiple universes where he took neither right first, nor the middle road after that, nor the dust-track, and neither did he take the second door. His walking the garden resulted in only one thing: the birth of a hundred different universes, in each of which he walks a separate path to the end of the garden.
It’s like giving an incomplete fairy story to ten little girls to complete it themselves. They each give it different endings that merge seamlessly with the beginning. Ten different stories that were born from one because of the sole reason that the girls were allowed to make their own choice as to how it would end. Now tell none of the girls about the nine others, and each will think that her version was the only one that ever existed, whereas you know all the stories.
Now if in real life you are in the position of the girls and are just writing down through your life one version of the story, who is the one who has given you the story to complete and knows about the other versions too?
“It is written.”— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
I won’t be surprised if this article fails to make you think. People have read my articles before. Most misinterpreted, lots didn’t understand and the rest who did, didn’t believe. Once again, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to believe me or not. You always do choose to believe me, although in a different universe.
(Frankly, that’s a miserable excuse. I really want you to believe me. Yeah, in this universe. 😉 Please comment.)
<Thanks a bunch to Poushali-di for making both The Sandman series and Northern Lights available to me. Oh, and hey, now I remember, The Alchemist was also a gift from her. So you see, this piece wouldn’t be here without her.
Picture [Destiny’s garden] from the original Sandman series, Season of Mists.>