There’s something exiting about traveling through the Transbay Tube on BART. Just finished watching The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and have that after-dinner-on-a-Friday-night-after-the-movie indestructible feeling. I feel I must rise to a higher level of engagement with the world around me and need to write. BART and all trains, but especially trains that look like a 1960s future series of railcars pulled by an engine and make lots of noise but mostly hollow hissing, move you magically along while you continue your business inside. Like life moving us forward except simpler. The train, the seat, whatever I have in my lap. Perhaps a companion. And the outside world sliding past. Maybe the darkness of the Transbay tunnel. Anyway, if a train is pulled by an engine and BART has every car powered individually, does that make it not a train, or only similar to a train? BART is like a train except that it’s very silvery and hisses, doesn’t choo-choo
A different vantage: the Saturn Cafe in Berkeley. All windows around the outside and people walking by all the time. I wouldn’t have thought it the best pedestrian corridor at the bottom of UC campus where Oxford is full of fast traffic and you can’t get into campus through the baseball field. Guess I was wrong as lots of people are walking by and I’m inside the fishbowl of this cafe, but I know from experience I don’t really look in from outside. And from inside one sees the world going by. Like being on a train except the world is moving and you’re still.
Before I could write much about the Saturn the Uber came and I’ve written most of this in the Toyota Sienna with Arabic-looking rugs on the floor and an Asian-looking man named Rommel driving. Now I’m getting dropped off. Thus ends my commentary for two weeks. Back on BART again after coming through the BART tunnel during Friday, Oct 30 afternoon commute in my Halloween costume. Dropped off, picked up again by the Uber. Just like my job making three hundred calls this week to buyers and sellers and lookers and listeners. Givers and takers and movers and shakers…and fakers. And it seems to come down to chance, and I get dropped off at the same intersection where I broke my leg a year ago. Coming back around to the same places. Traveling through the same BART tunnels. But you know, every time something changes. Today the sun has just set and it’s warm and there’s a different feeling in the air that autumn carries. So this moment is not the same as others were. It’s more fall and sunny.
Here’s an interesting idea related to seeing the same places again and again, working on the same piece in different but similar places. To me that has come to seem like a tesseract, a construct with an additional dimension (in this case time) allowing for a series of similar events to compress together, accordion-like, into a common moment. Ok, yes, that’s really cool, and in watching my favorite TV show I came across this idea for a fifth dimension: if you see time as unfolding and in the process linking everything and everyone together as a fourth dimension, in what dimension would time travel occur? Or, here is the kicker from Continuum: would traveling in time require a fifth dimension because of changes time travel causes in the first four, creating a dimension of alternate worlds. Because we’re used to the idea of time moving only forward, if you jumped backwards to a prior point in time, how would that affect things? How would we understand the relationship between the world before you did that and the world afterwards? That is what works as a fifth dimension, the dimension consisting of different possible outcomes based upon our choices. I just realized something maybe too neat, so obvious I’m surprised I’ve never heard anyone talking about it. Suppose we define a fifth dimension to our ordinary lives as the parallel worlds created by our choices. Then…all the ramifications of choice are evident in the resulting continuum. Choice? Free will, right? What are the areas of human endeavor most associated with free will and choice? Besides career planning… philosophy and religion! I’ve always tried to interpret Christ’s statement “The Kingdom of God will come as a thief in the night,” at a most unexpected time and place, to mean that it is concealed within each moment. Existentially, if something big is going to happen at a surprising time, something really big, then there is probably only one surprising time it can happen. 1999? 2112? No, now! That’s the only existential time that has any real utility. Everything else is unreal, who knows may never become real because…there are so many possibilities. In a fifth dimension we have a way that literally everything from dropping your ice cream cone on the ground to the Rapture of good souls, the separating of wheat from chaff, goats from sheep, the end of the world, can coexist. All the predictions were correct, every one of them.
So many paths to consider. What about this one: in the Continuum series the most disturbing aspect was to have to face a reality in which one did not belong, say by coming into a time where there is already one of you there. You can’t very well both sit in your favorite armchair at the same time. You also can’t both spend one-on-one time with your child at the same time, or your fiancé… So, what about these groups that have predicted the end of the world. What if it ended in some timelines as the believers predicted, but not for us in this timeline we happen to be on? If there are parallel worlds initiated by every choice each of us makes, then any of us could be heading down a path to any one of those worlds any time and the people we know are doing the same. So there might be really cool worlds that we might or might not get to depending upon the choices we and others make, and we might get there with our friends, but only with the ones who made certain choices. All religious thought that supports an afterlife or a consequence from our free will might be proved out in one of these parallel worlds right here and now. Heaven and Hell can literally exist in parallel worlds that we could get to really easily by means of our choices…
By creating disturbing situations such as persons meeting themselves, Continuum made it more clear that each moment we make decisions that may remake our future. The kicker was the decisions that had the greatest impact were the ones made with the greatest degree of caring and insight. That makes sense in that the decisions that affect humanity will be the ones that in some way take its interests into account.
For a second I’d step out of the flow of time as it rushes past in the form of fire engines, students, three lanes of cars, someone nearby playing a guitar. As a bassist rolls his acoustic instrument, taller than himself, with an electric amplified monitor, past the bicycles and bystanders while the sun goes down behind the Revival Bar & Kitchen across the street from me in Berkeley. But I wanted to step out to enjoy this moment. The hedonistic impulse may or may not be culpable, maybe without it I’d be bereft of any meaning, so hedonistic impulses have their purpose in bringing us closer to truth through creating a frame of reference. If I seek a certain pleasure at least I’ve created clarity of intent and action. I say taking a step back is one entry to that fifth dimension of free will and choice, a dimension not easily perceived and not easily used to good purpose, or even used at all. Let’s say I’m using it now because let’s say I actually care that I use my free will. Say I engage in an exercise, a practice whereby I take note of what I perceive and what I feel. I thereby create a different world. And the only way it can be different is through use of free will, and free will is tied, inevitably, to action, and the only premeditated action is practice (because otherwise it’s just vague ideas, not acts we can actually count on making), and so by a practice, say of meditation, or swimming, or stopping and listening to my kids, I give myself a tiny almost invisible moment to use my free will. And that is creativity and that is magic. The glass that holds the wine. And all along you thought it was your hand that held the wine.