Universe in a Shoebox (Part I)

A recent sermon by Rev. Alex Riegel left me thinking back. At the start of the sermon, Alex asks the congregation to remember moments of our youth when we felt in sync with life and taken with the mystery and wonder: to recall our natural philosophical disposition. A few points came forward in my mind. First, I remember wondering often about my uniqueness in the universe. After I understood just how many people inhabited this planet but before I knew anything about genetics, I mulled over what the chance was that I was the only one with my name, at my age, with my physical appearance, likes, and dislikes. Was there another me? What would the chances be that mundane me could really and truly be unique? I don’t recall judging whether having a duplicate would be a plus or a minus, only the recurring thought.


My second preoccupation as I’d lay in bed waiting for sleep was the uniqueness of the universe. Could the universe I knew be simply in a shoe box in the corner of someone’s closet, and could that closet-containing universe be in another box? Could the pattern, perhaps, never end in either direction, universes upon universes contained and containing this one, like an infinite set of nesting dolls? These were my early philosophical meanderings of the mind when young.

Honestly, they’re not too different than my meanderings now. I return to my shoebox theory of the universe when the thought of a single universe with nothingness beyond me seems either to simple or too distressing. It doesn’t keep me up nights anymore – that honor is reserved for so many distracting and usually uncontrollable minutiae in my life. And while I no longer wonder if my double resides in some small town in Iowa, I instead see the commonalities I have with the rest of humanity. I am a mother, thus share “mother” to greater or lesser extents with all mothers that are, that have ever been, or that ever will be. I have loved and lost, and share that experience with most of the world as well. I have known joy and sorrow and recognize these emotions as far from unique. They are, in fact, part of the human condition. These shared experiences ground me and connect me to the humanity.

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2 thoughts on “Universe in a Shoebox (Part I)

  1. My first thoughts of this can be attributed to Mr. Rogers. He repeated told me that I was special and unique in this world. I still think back on this when I ponder the vastness of the universe. How amazing that we are all unique considering the infinite space we inhabit.

  2. I'm reminded of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (my God, I loved that show when I was a kid!) in which a mini-universe is created for two holodeck characters who have attained self-realization. At the end, they think they are off in the "real" universe when really they are traveling an encapsulated one. The question of course arises, are we just like them? Thinking we are reality when we are nothing more than a very elaborate illusion? The product of some greater mind's imaginings?

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