by Kamau Sennaar
“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
(King James Version)
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (English Standard Version)
A long time ago in the city of Jamaica, Queens, a young boy ambled through a large, public library, searching for an interesting book to read. He came upon the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series published by Bantam Books. The boy opened “Return to the Cave of Time” by Edward Packard and saw he was given choices to make at the ending of each chapter. He sat down with the book, amazed at all the possible story outcomes for the main character. It was like real life; the story was driven by the reader’s choices. Imagine Mr. Packard crafting the numerous storylines for me to (I’m sorry – I mean, the boy to) make his own decisions.
Go back further to a time when a theoretical physicist (somebody who tries to figure out how nature works) started a research program that developed over time into the String Theory. He was Dr. Werner Heisenberg. The String Theory is usually called “the theory of everything” or “the God theory” because it tries to explain how gravity and quantum physics (the study of the smallest stuff in the universe, basically atoms) work together. This research is still vibrant and happening now. It is a source of both amazement and controversy (conflicting ideas and debate of the theory).
The String Theory works due to these key features:
- Energy is in all objects in our universe. It is composed of vibrating filaments (strings) and membranes (branes or layers).
- There is a relationship between general relativity (gravity) with quantum physics (what is physically real). Reality is created when this relationship is explained.
- At the smallest level of life (energy), all particles are made up of bosons and fermions. Bosons exist in multiples while fermions exist individually. Both the extrovert and introvert are needed in the creation of all things in nature.
- Several extra (usually unobservable) dimensions to the universe must exist for the creation of all things to happen. This is known as “the Multiverse” – different realities happening at the same that lead to infinite outcomes. This last key feature brings us back to the boy at the library.
“My intent was to try to make Choose Your Own Adventures like life as much as possible with regard to the consequences of your choices.” – Author Edward Packard in an interview conducted by Grady Hendrix.
The book cover said, “You are the star of the story!” That announcement really appealed to me, that young boy in the library. It wasn’t just a story. It was interactive. The author was interested in my input as the reader. We would share the journey as I read his writings and made choices. I was 14 years old at the time (a few years after I was baptized). I connected these fictitious adventures to the free will God gave me to use in my own life.
Like the String Theory, there is much debate about whether free will/choice is infinite, limited or non-existent. When I learned of the String Theory, it gave me hope in my belief of complete free will/choice. The Multiverse component of the theory illustrates, through science, how God could offer choice while creating each small instance or step in someone’s life. Some believers think that God pre-destines your life because your “steps are ordered”. (Psalms 27:33) But I can see through the example of the Multiverse that God has put in place multiple realities at the microscopic level. They are individualized to each person and governed by that person’s choices.
What is also fascinating about this correlation between storytelling and the String Theory is that God uses genetics to build character and reveal purpose. Genetics provide strengths, weaknesses, history and potential in biological and biographical detail for the character. Genetics become the tools that help to inform the character’s inner analysis. This analysis drives the choices one uses in the Multiverse.
PBS once showed how this could work on its show “NOVA: The Elegant Universe”. It starred Dr. Brian Greene and discussed his views on the String Theory. The viewer sees him at a bar getting a drink. There are several different versions of him at the bar at the same time that the Multiverse could play out depending on his choices. This, to me, is the craft and underpinning of a great author – setting the stage for the character to evolve through its journey of choices. The author allows the character to present itself and then reveal the truth of who they are by their use of free will. Once the author applies the pen to the paper, worlds appear and their inhabitants. God spoke to the darkness and the universe was created. Witness the power of the word In Genesis 1.
It is interesting to me that one of God’s attributes is being long-suffering. This trait seems to be a mainstay for most artists or creators across the board. During the interview with Mr. Packard, it is established that the longer he wrote his book series, the less outcomes he created. At first, he did around 40 endings. Towards the close of the series, he was doing half that amount. He reasoned that he chose plot over the reader’s choices. He, as the author, wanted a stronger hand in the flow of the stories. God, on the other hand, doesn’t do that. Instead, more realities are created in the Multiverse to accommodate one’s choices in their life. We drive our plots. Our hands are on the steering wheel of God’s car.
Like the boy who grew into a man using God’s Multiverse, the desire to grow from an avid reader into a writer has taken shape in me over the years. I am now ready to start working on stories for a future, unknown audience with characters who will live their own lives. My intent is mostly like Mr. Packard’s but also a little different: to explore storytelling driven by choice but use parallel lives being acted out instead of interactivity.