April 29, 2009

Three Dimensions of Choices

In class we've been studying Einstein's Dreams, a novel by Alan Lightman. This chronicles Einstein's "Miracle Year," the time he worked in Berne in the Patent Office, and thought up many of his reknowned theories. Each chapter is dream about different ways that time functions and/or the different effects of time in a series of worlds.

For some class exercises, I made digital representations of what the chapter was about. This one is 19 April 1905. "In this world, time has three dimensions, like space." The people in this world "participate in three perpendicular futures." Each decision carries three different outcomes which are real. A man on a balcony looks down and sees a red hat in the snow. He thinks about a woman in Fribourg. Should he go see her? He considers three outcomes: he decides not to see her and goes on to find someone else to love, he goes to see her and they end up as embattled lovers ("He lives for her, and he is happy with his anguish."), and thirdly, he sees her again but only as a casual acquaintance, and returns home to study again the red hat in the snow.

After they figure out what the visual representation is, we talk about how it correlates to our world. We talked about how we each make decisions. Do we impulsively leap into one "dimension" without bothering to consider the other two? Or do we agonize over decisions, seeing the varied outcomes, knowing they could all be good in their own way, then finally choose? And do we forever look back at the choices we've made, not quite able to let it go--still reliving that moment of decision, still studying the red hat in the snow?

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