Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Conservation of More Than Just Energy

Where conservation of energy cam be a rather simple effect to prove, there is another conservation theory that I am inclined to believe in as well, and yet far more difficult to prove.

Conservation of Consciousness.

It's also not the easiest to explain. The first time I heard of it, the person explaining it started with "You are immortal." Immortal? As much as I claim that I intend to live forever or die trying, immortality is something I only have the potential to achieve though my art, in the form of a legacy.

The concept is, every single time that you make a choice, or abstain from making a choice, which is a choice in itself, the universe duplicates itself, and instead of you choosing just one, you actually choose them all. If you happen to die as a result of your choices, your body dies, but your consciousness continues on in one of the "living alternates."

Divided by Infinity by Robert Charles Wilson (found in the Sixteenth Annual Year's Best Science Fiction, Gardner Dozois ed.) was the first that introduced me to the concept, and, much like the story's narrator, I had been through some rough times. There were an infinite number of choices I had made, many which had led to my death; nonetheless, here I am, still living.

Until you've had to suffer through you, you can't imagine the depths that depression can take you when it becomes a consistent, daily, hourly, minutely part of your life. I've spoken to people still suffering, and they ask, "How do you get through it, knowing the future is too far away, and you many never be free of it?"

My answer is always to narrow your vision. People who don't suffer from depression have the luxury of casting their gaze far forward, planning out their entire lives at every moment. Those with depression cannot bear to look so far ahead, for it only serves to depress us more. So, narrow your vision: if all you can bear it to look ahead into next week, that's as far as you go; if all you can bear is to look ahead into tomorrow, don't concern yourself with the day after; if just seeing the next hour is traumatizing, look and live second by second, and you will still feel the time passing by.

The difficulty with changing from dying body to surviving body is that the choices it has made are different from your own. A side effect of this is that the universe starts making more and more strange turnings. What seemed possible but improbable may be found as reality. As with immortality, the world will continue to change even as we hold the same self-image or ourselves in our heads.

The second book to introduce this idea to me most recently was Anathem by Neal Stephenson, and not the easiest book to start reading either. It introduced the concept of Conservation of Consciousness a lot more gently than Divided by Infinity, but still drew me back to reread it (and make sure I hadn't imagined it or read it in a different universe).

Both of these books address the concern that nobody else can be a true believer in the concept, only ourself, myself. This is due to the way only we can narrate our lives, and when the body dies and our consciousness is preserved, theirs does not travel with us, maintaining our close community. Everything except for the voice narrating our lives changes based off different choices we might have made.

As options die out, everything grows increasingly unlikely; this seems to run hand-in-hand with the world growing stranger as well. Divided by Infinity approaches it with an Apocalypse, Anathem approaches it with alien attack (not to be confused as the same thing).

Both are recommend reading for anyone interested in the concept, and if anyone stumbles across--or has already found--additional reading material, please let me know.

And if you find a copy of "You Will Never Die," by Carl G. Soziere, burn it before reading it, or pick me up a copy.