Doing things differently since 1984

Parallel Universes and Circumstances

Beginning in my pre-teenage years, I often entertained this thought: What if I had been raised in a completely different situation?  Something not White Upper Middle Class, not nuclear family, not Christian parents, maybe not even America?  If I had an identical twin out there raised in a totally different kind of life, and I met her, how different would we be? 

Then I met my first boyfriend when I was 15, whom everyone said was so similar to me in so many ways, except his childhood had not been quite as Happy Days as mine.  Just like a Parallel Me, I thought!  After 6 months of dating, he dumped me explaining that beneath his cheerful boyfriendish countenance, he was gay and suicidal.  I abandoned both dating and the quest for Parallel Me’s for a few years.

What developed later was something much more relevant and meaningful.  Could we all not look at any other human being, and think, “I wonder if I would have turned out just like them, given different life circumstances?”  It’s of course a rhetorical question that can never be answered…  But I think keeping this question in mind could solve a great many problems we have in relating to one another.  For all I know, pretty much everyone I meet is a “Parallel Me” who has been subjected to completely different life experiences.

As it turns out, there is an actual branch of quantum physics which explores the possibility of infinite parallel universes, in which there are infinite versions of ourselves who have made different decisions in life.  I’m not going to encourage anyone to go too deep into that rabbit hole, nor make any claim that I believe any of it, but just taking it as a philosophical idea can be really beneficial whenever you meet someone you think you have nothing in common with.

There is of course room for the classic Nature vs Nurture argument here, where some people are hard-wired to be a certain way.  I’m not trying to say that we’re all the same, or to puncture holes in anyone’s pride in their uniqueness.   I am trying to puncture our pride in general.  How could you look down on someone who could just as easily have been you, given different circumstances and choices?  How could you dismiss someone’s viewpoint or opinion, without experiencing their life which has led them to see everything that way? 

Starting from today, rewind through your life.  Decisions you have made, people you have met, things that have “happened” to you for better or worse… rewind all the way through your childhood, where just about everything “happened” to you without your input, all the way back to who your parents were, where you were born, and even when you were born.  Starting with just you, a human soul, how many possibilities are now ahead of you?  I guarantee that the number is greater than the population of the Earth today.

I don’t mean this as a way of excusing someone’s bad behavior, or of not taking responsibility for our own actions.  I’m not advocating that we let criminals go free because they had a difficult childhood, or that anyone should give up on getting anywhere because they’ve been dealt a bad lot in life.  We are responsible for our own decisions, regardless of why we make them, and we have the power to make different decisions continually.

The behaviors I would like to encourage are those of empathy in place of judgment, understanding in place of jealousy, and cooperation in place of division.  It doesn’t have to be in a touchy-feely kind of way where we’re all linked hand-in-hand singing campfire songs… but the next time you feel like looking down on someone, or getting offended by them, or just plain not “getting” them, take a moment to consider, “I wonder if I could have ended up or thought like that, given different circumstances…”

13 comments on “Parallel Universes and Circumstances

  1. Randel
    June 1, 2012

    Where I work, there is a person who believes that when in heaven you get to play the simulation game. If I had done this instead of that, what would the result have been? It is a fascinating concept.

    I will say this I would not want anyone else’s problems, I will keep the cross I bear. But I do admit that I have envy for folks who do not have my maladies, medical or otherwise. To me, anger and envy are the most destructive as they only harm you. So I am working on eliminating them, and being less judgmental as I take your posting to mean, both on myself and others. But it takes work.

    • abtwixt
      June 1, 2012

      I would be quite pleased to be able to play the simulation game in Heaven! Though, I can’t say for certain if I’ll have any real desire to look back, once I’m there.

      My dad once told me, “Bitterness is a poison we swallow, hoping to destroy the other person.” I doubt it was an original quote, but it’s a real gem that I’ve kept with me. Anger and envy are definitely close relatives (though with anger, I think we can and do harm others)! The post was meant to not only discourage people from such behavior, but also to suggest a viewpoint which can aid in doing so 🙂

      Thanks again for your comment and readership!

  2. Swirling Turnip
    June 1, 2012

    Well, this is certainly a new way to think when meeting people. I know I can react differently to a stressor on a bad day than I would on a good day. So yes, each emotion, each life choice would mold my future. Well done, thank you!

    • abtwixt
      June 4, 2012

      I think that anyone who can even begin to wrap their heads around this already has a greater dose of empathy than the average person — so well done on your part as well! 🙂

  3. Three Well Beings
    June 2, 2012

    Think of the tension we’d all shed if we didn’t size people up at all…just accepted that they are doing the best they can. I know there’s a fine line sometimes, and often it’s critical that we use enough judgement to not allow people into our lives who are going to drain us emotionally or even cause us emotional harm–some of those people are doing the best they can too–but in our coworkers and extensions of our friendships, we can often do a lot better. I like to think we can definitely cultivate the habit of empathy! Beautiful post. Debra

    • abtwixt
      June 4, 2012

      Thank you for the kind comment Debra, and you make a good point! “Judging” in terms of broad-stroking a person as dumb, crazy, hopeless, etc. is quite different from “judging” them as being a bad influence to you personally. The latter I think can still be done with great empathy — but must be handled much more delicately. I’ve known people who were aware that they were a bad influence and specifically wanted to not stain the minds of particularly innocent people around them (kids especially draw this out of a person). With that admission, it is easy to understand and care about them, while keeping a safe distance. An empathetic mindset does not mean we open our lives up to everyone, but that we [at least attempt to] understand where they are coming from and treat them as equally capable and deserving human beings to ourselves.

  4. aFrankAngle
    June 4, 2012

    No thanks to the Simulation Game. Would our life be the same today if we started again? Nope … odds are we wouldn’t make the same decisions again. But I wonder about the world if we were less selfish, more responsible, and more empathetic. Good post to ponder!

    • abtwixt
      June 4, 2012

      Thanks for the coment Frank, and I could definitely see why the Simulation Game would be a bit undesirous, as would roaming too far down the “What-If” trail here on Earth. It is my curiosity alone, and not my good sense, that would beckon me.

      The trick with empathy is that you have to stretch yourself to be understanding even of the individuals who are not empathetic 😉 For myself, I find it to be incredibly freeing to view others in this way (not that I’m perfect about it), because it means everyone has something to offer and teach that I’ve not yet managed to come up with on my own.

  5. unfinishedbizness
    June 7, 2012

    I love this post and the concept of parallel universes with different versions of ourselves… The Science Channel fascinates me constantly covering things like that! I look back a lot to decisions I’ve made and mentally play out the different paths I could have taken. I like the quote “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be”.

    Great, awesome thought provoking post – thank you! It’s for reasons like this that I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. The details are here: http://unfinishedbizness.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/passing-along-some-sunshine/ Enjoy 🙂

    • abtwixt
      June 8, 2012

      I thanked you on your blog and I’ll thank you here too! I don’t want to downplay the awesomeness of being nominated 😀 Though, I may or may not devote a whole post to it (I tend to procrastinate nomination lists because it inevitably means leaving people out! Eep!)

  6. joyannaadams
    June 8, 2012

    I found a almost perfect example of myself on the internet…a woman that I have never met in person, but we truly ARE pea pods. So much synchronicity is in our lives, down to the tinies detail, it’s amazing. We call each other pea pods.

    I also have a woman in town that is…physically speaking, my twin. It scares me to even look at her she looks so much like me. So, it does happen.

    You have a very sound mind, and that’s …pretty rare nowadays. Dispite all that we hear on the news, humans really are…with proper “touching” (parents) from a young age..empathtic.

    Otherwise the freeways of the world would be filled with murders.

    Keep writiing. Enjoyed it!

    • abtwixt
      June 9, 2012

      How interesting and exciting to find a pea pod! 🙂 I’m yet to find someone like that, but then again I seem to be just a little extra “different” than your average pea… lol!

      Thank you very much for the compliments! I’ll have to be sure to pass it along to my parents who, doubtless, had a greater impact on who I am than anyone else.

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