Exactly three years and eight days ago to the date, Gaby Dunn wrote an excellent essay called, “Maybe In Another Universe, I Deserve You.” Through it, I got to know of William James, an American physician, philosopher, and psychologist who came up with the term, “multiverse” to characterize the hypothesis that there exists multiple universes. And in this multiverse, every outcome is possible across the finite or infinite number of universes that exist entirely. The so-called “alternative” universes or “parallel” universes we often refer to in our colloquial conversations.
While the idea of a multiverse has been considered in many disciplines, from astronomy to theology, the physics community of which many deem is most knowledgeable on such matters, disputes whether this idea is even worthy of scientific discussion. I love science. But I am not a physicist. And today, I take off my academic hat. Today, I am only a writer. And that means, imagination at times, at many times, must supersede the physical reality of the observable world. Indeed, as Francis Bacon writes, “The job of the artist is to always deepen the mystery.”
Today, I invite you to imagine that multiple universes are real.
If multiple universes are real, what would love look like? Would every person who loves us be able to be with us the way they wanted, at least in one universe? Would we finally see them clearly, the way they wanted to be seen? Would we finally experience their longing for us in a way that we don’t currently, in this space and time?
And of course, what about our unrequited loves? Would we finally know what it is to wholly and thoroughly possess the love that we so ardently desire, from those who can’t or who won’t love us back? Those whose hearts keep us up at night, wondering, wishing, waiting; hoping against hope. Certainly in this universe, the two sets of people are often disappointed; often left with unfulfilled dreams and broken hearts.
Or perhaps in another universe, you never meet this person at all. You know, the one you’re thinking about right now, as you read this. The one who makes your heart beat so rapidly, you feel like it might fall out of your chest at any moment; the one who makes your heart beat so slowly, you’re certain you will become unconscious if you think of them for a second longer. The one who literally takes your breath away. But also the one you can’t be with for whatever reason. What if, in another universe, you didn’t meet them? You don’t know them and they don’t know you. You are alone or you are with someone else, and you are content. They do not exist to you. But neither does the pain in your chest.
Which universe would you choose?
Love, we like to say, is always worth it. Worth the aches and pains, even to the point where you are so heartbroken that you feel dead in a body that is scientifically speaking, still alive. And we say this, because we experience the incomparable beauty of falling into perfect rhythm with a stranger’s heart. Even when we all don’t fall, we all want to believe that love – if and when it does happen – that it will be worth it. But I think, whether you love for a time or for a lifetime, from everything from your love not being reciprocated, to it being treated unkindly, recklessly, to death; means that all love, in the end, is tragedy. At least in this universe.
The other universe, the one where you don’t meet the person, doesn’t actually seem so awful. It doesn’t seem a bad thing to not go to bed at night in tears because someone won’t be with you, the way you want; the way you need. It doesn’t seem a waste of a life to avoid the feelings you’re feeling now. Maybe in that other universe, you even fall in love with someone else. Someone who desires to be with you as much as you desire them.
It seems an easy choice of course to want the first universe – where you fall in love with the person you want the most. And they fall in love with you, painlessly. That is the perfect outcome, isn’t it? And the next best choice, rationally, is if we can’t be in that first universe, then maybe the second one where you don’t meet at all, would be better for the sake of your weary heart. The tragedy is best avoided entirely, isn’t it?
Yet I wouldn’t choose either universe. There is too much perfection in the first one, and there is not enough pain in the second. Perfection leaves no room for appreciation. And where there is no pain, there is often not much joy either. Of course in the endless multiverse, anything is possible. But in the comparisons I put forth, something must be sacrificed. My imagination, my rules.
Yes, love is tragic in this universe. It is tragic to not be with the one person you really want. The one you wish could see you how you really want them to; the one you want to need, and you want to need you. But that love, that heartbreaking love, I think, is what makes this universe so devastatingly beautiful: That I can love you and I can continue to love you even if you don’t love me back. That my heart will break into a thousand pieces every day, and every night I will put it back together, and love you again. That this love may stay with me for a time or for a lifetime. Yet what is most important is that I dared to love at all. That I dared to love you at all.
Maybe in another universe, you and I can be with this person that we love, and everything is straightforward and simple. And maybe in another universe, we don’t have to love them at all because it just never happened. But I still choose this universe. Because this universe is the one where we get to love the person the way we do now – imperfectly, beautifully, terrifyingly, heartbreakingly, tragically. But always and only a one-of-a-kind, once in a lifetime, unparalleled love.