Of places and parallel universes

Between moments of wakefulness and sleep, a realization: my dreams rarely take place in Canada. Take place. Isn’t that a nice phrase? To take place — as if places are ever ours to take.

A couple nights ago my dream took place in an unfamiliar, unnamed location. In the dream I was speaking gibberish while explaining electric field equations to Another Person. I could very well be telling a story about norval swords and slithy toves, but within the (il)logical parameters of my dream, I perfectly understood Gaussian math.

When I woke up I found myself curled like a Cheeto on top of two swivel chairs strategically placed beside each other. It was 3am. I was holed up in the quiet basement of the school library cramming for two midterm exams. I checked the alarm on my phone, tapped it off and went back to studying.

This has been my routine since the midterm grind started. I have once again engaged in a bloody match against numbers and charges, and after all these years I still haven’t acquired the work ethic required to succeed in this field.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a long time. Instead I’ve been taking naps, short but much-needed, though waking up is no less cathartic than having a palanggana of shit-infested kanal water poured over my head. There’s always a deadline to beat, an assignment due in a few, an exam waiting to quash my grades and my ego.

In (numerous) moments of self-doubt, I turn to physics for consolation.

Physicist Hugh Everett III for instance once posited that wavefunction collapse does not exist. In quantum mechanics, this implies that whenever we make decisions, all other options are physically realized in parallel universes. Every decision is a branch point, and from this branch point stems multiple versions of the universe where each and every possible choice occurs.

If Manong Everett was right, there is a universe out there in which I actually became a writer. There’s also a universe in which I already worked on my assignments last weekend, and there’s an even better universe in which I spent last Friday night in a bar called Sarah’s while listening to a song called Sarah’s and geeking out about its lyrics that go, “the moon shines like a silmaril.”

A silmaril? Fucking nerds, man.

But the catch about this Everett multiverse theory is that no “daughter universe” can possibly interact with another. Barring any glitches, these parallel universes will in no way intersect so we can never know the consequent results of the choices we didn’t make.

Some days I find comfort in imagining that there are better worlds out there. A world where everyone glides through their daily commute and where everyone knows and does exactly what they love the most. A world where all the good decisions have aligned and where the fulcrum of fate has found that gentle spot to keep everything in equilibrium.

Most days, however, cynicism still gets the best of me. I still wallow in the perennial misery of incompetence and of never-being-enough, and I concur that maybe Manong Everett was right. Every branch point, a decision. Every decision, a reprieve.

I wrote this when I should be working on an electromagnetics assignment and studying for two upcoming midterms on complex variable calculus and AI systems. Punyeta ko talaga e, ‘no? ‘Di na natuto.


  1. drsixto

    “I still haven’t acquired the work ethic required to succeed in this field. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a long time.” I think that’s already the best work ethic most of us could possibly have toward electromag, sacrifice sleep. Pag natapos mo naman yan, it’s like a prestigious badge for your self at iisipin mo, you’ve overcome something you could not possibly understand. What is life anyway?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leah Ranada

    Love the idea that experiences “take place,” but they really do. In an alternate universe, you powered through studying and skipped blogging and we missed out on this read. Hehe, good luck with the midterms.


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