A thought experiment

There are an infinite number of worlds.  My life’s infinite possible permutations get played out in each of them.  In one world, I am the god-like ruler of the human race.  In another, I was aborted by my mother.  Every stage in between can be found somewhere:  movie star, pauper, dullard, wit.  The gates to the worlds are my actions.  If tomorrow I steal money, I will enter a different world from the one I now inhabit:  a darker world in which I am corrupted, a thief, sought after by the police.

The actions of others have no influence over my infinity of worlds.  Each person navigates his own subset of infinity, but is a given, an inert factor, to everyone else, including myself.  I can’t blame them for the quality of my world.  I can’t make excuses, rail against the complexity of human causation, or claim to act while in the grip of vast impersonal forces.  More accurately, I can do all these things, but by doing so I will cross the gate into the “I’m a pathetic whiner” world — not a pretty place.

My worlds are full of surprises, but they too are givens, props in the scenery rather than part of the plot:  surprises are predictable.  Only my reactions to them can move me from here to there.  Say a terrorist bomb explodes close by.  The world remains unchanged until I act.  If I run in panic, I enter a world in which I am branded a coward.  If I somehow save the victims, I will find myself in a world that lionizes me as a hero.  If I muddle through, I will be in my best-suited muddler world.

To the degree that my actions follow my decisions, the worlds through which I travel are entirely my choice.  To the degree that my decisions adhere to my moral ideals, those worlds will be ruled by morality.

But if I allow impulse, selfishness, fear, or anger to drive my behavior, I will suffer in the swirl of chaos, and be tormented by a passage through worlds stained and frozen like the last circle of hell, which Dante reserved for traitors:  a traitor to myself, and to the infinite universe.

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