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I subscribe to the unlikely notion of parallel universes, though with a slight twist from the standard theory. In my multiverse, each unique world exists in the same physical space; not overlaid or merely adjacent, but completely co-equal, separated only by perspective. In my multiverse, the person standing next to me in the grocery line occupies a wholly distinct universe. We share nothing except the occasional illusion of sharing experiences.

My multiverse gets ramped up when I’m away from home. Home might be where my heart receives mail deliveries, but my feet are free to wander pretty much anywhere. Away from home, I experience more prominent sensations of inhabiting a multiverse. Out there, I less successfully anticipate other perspectives, and my tacit presumptions often surprise me. My sense of level, fair, decent, and normal strain before cascading alternative perspectives I could not have possibly ever imagined before encountering them, though I’m certain I will never understand any of them.

My multiverse overflows with contradictions. I genuinely love people who hold in contempt some of my perspectives. They love me back. Neither of us understand the other, but our kind of admiration doesn’t hold itself contingent to understanding.

Perhaps the only sin in my multiverse—by default the greatest one—might be the sin of attempting to understand another’s perspective. Nobody can visit another’s experience, so understanding seems simply impossible. One might, without violating any moral code, appreciate and respect, even empathize, but never, ever approach understanding.

Consequently, I expend little effort seeking to become understood. If seeking to understand another’s perspective qualifies as sin, I suppose that seeking to be understood might be best labeled a moral shortcoming, like force feeding a captive merely because the jailer refuses to unshackle his hands. A form of punishment imposed upon an innocent spectator.

From within my multiverse, I clearly see the absurdities inherent in the pursuit of understanding. Except for the incredibly special case of science, and especially in the absolutely pedestrian-common case of human experience, understanding seems a double-binding aspiration, damning whatever the approach. Some musty homily passed to me in my impressionable youth by a well-intended mentor encouraged me to first seek to understand, advice certain to render me either eternally seeking or unjustifiably certain. What could I possibly understand from over here, never having even once experienced anything from your over-there? I could at best project my meager experience and mistake it for yours, I suppose. What else could pass for understanding here?

Truth told, I hardly understand myself. Much of my own experience unfolds as the mystery I suppose it was intended to be. I accept my inborn introversion without really understanding its influence upon my choices. My preferences, being the water this old fish swims in, influence me preconsciously, though I might long ponder my choices after selecting them and especially after experiencing their ramifications. I bump along more or less like a pinball; neither quite randomly nor terribly predictably. I no longer aspire to understand.

I aspire to accept now, a seemingly passive but alarmingly active approach to life. No victim stance, acceptance involves recognition rather than projection; recognition of difference rather than insistent projection of similarity. Even my wife, kids, siblings, and surviving mother exhibit many more differences than similarities. If our mutual attraction depended upon our same-ness, we’d live solitary existences, indeed.

My multiverse might be nothing more than convenient fiction for me, a story attempting to make sense of fundamentally non-sensical experience. I have pursued sameness and found it wanting, and me wanting more. I, like every budding artist, played at being a poor instance of the songwriters and performers I admired, begrudgingly accepting that I was not nor would I ever actually be ‘like’ anyone else. At least I never resorted to failing to play Stairway To Heaven or Rocky Raccoon. Emulation might be the most sincere form of delusion.

My multiverse has a space for me as well as a unique space for you, and ample room for everyone else. I only spent much of my life here so far accepting my space; it seemed an awfully tough ask, as if I had somehow been conditioned to acknowledge only superficial similarity and ignore the beneficent utility of fundamental difference. We might each inhabit Another Planet, remarkably similar to but definably different than every other one. Like this Starbucks, where I piggyback free wi-fi this morning, is only superficially similar to every other Starbucks I’ve ever visited. As Virginia Satir suggested, our similarities attract us, but our differences make us strong. They also make us human. They make us us.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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