Universe In A Box


Douglas Adams, in his book The Restaurant at the End of The Universe has a nifty little piece of tech called the Total Perspective Vortex. Quoting from the book...

"The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses.

To explain - since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation - every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula - for that was his name - was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

"Have some sense of proportion!" she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex - just to show her.

And into one end he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other end he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula's horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

Adams was a genius at making something complex and barely understandable and far beyond absurd, and by doing so, he made it completely identifiable.

We all have this moment when we're locked in the box with the Universe. We go in with the person we think we are, and the box shows us who we really are. No one comes out of the box the same. Some don't come out at all.

I don't know what's gonna happen to you when you get locked in the box, and the box shows you the Universe, but I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that you will know the moment you get locked in the box. You'll know that moment. It might be in retrospect, but you're gonna know that was the moment you got locked in the box, and box showed you the Universe, because that moment is going to the moment your life changed. One way or the other.

I can tell you this without a single doubt in my mind because I've been in the box. My happy oblivious just this side of narcissist control freak went in the box, and the box opened up and showed me the universe, and said 'Who the fuck do you think you are?" Then it proceeded to show me exactly who the fuck I was, and who the fuck I was, was not who the fuck I thought I was. It showed me that I was...well, an oblivious just this side of narcissist control freak, and completely out of control.

Now, when you're faced with the fact that you aren't who you think you are--and that this person is who others think you are--you gotta make a choice. What kind of person do you want to be when the door to this box opens, and you step out?

The last 10 years or so is what I hold up as my answer to this question. Sure, I have my bad days, but my bad days now are miles above my best days then. Trust. And by the way, this doesn't mean you're in control of yourself every single day of your life. It means you're willing to say you failed one day, and make the comeback.

It means that you organically have the people and things you want in your life, and you don't have the people and things in your life you don't want to have. It also means that you have figured out the difference between those two things.

It means that you can dedicate at least a little time to something you enjoy, or something that improves your life. Those things are not mutually exclusive, and not something to be ashamed of.

It means that you can get out of your own head and pay attention to others. It means you've learned some empathy.

It means--at long last--you are who you are, and working towards who you want to be, and you're OK with that.

But it starts the moment you step out of the box that showed you The Universe. It started with the choice you make in that moment.

When that happens, what will your choice be?