The Garden of Many Paths

            The premise of this world is no doubt fictional. It is a garden of many paths. Each path that is taken ends in a fork. If one tries to turn around, they will find yet another fork, different than the one that got them there. It is unknown what happens to the paths that are not taken, and if they end in forks too. All that is known is that for each path that is taken, it will end in a fork. The gods of this world, should they exist, must have fickle motives. Or else they like gardens and paths.

            Although the choice is only between two, this choice paralyzes some. Others always take the left path; or the right path; or they try not to make any choice at all, but randomly go one way, or the other. Of course, some search for an endpoint, or a meaningful purpose.

            Albert, who lives in this world, has been many things in it – explorer, gardener, even philosopher. He credits himself with the singularity theorem: that there are many different points in the universe where many different paths initially began, and that one day, as the numbers grow and spread, a path from one world will meet a path from another world. He is a humble man, however, and so does not speculate about what will happen next.

            Occasionally, neither frequently nor infrequently, you meet someone else on the path. Sometimes overcoming them on the same path, or, if reversing in direction, spontaneously meeting them at a new fork. Some people speculated this meant that many paths were, in fact, already connected. But that gave a regrettable incongruity to Albert’s singularity theorem, and so he gave the idea very little credit. They were more likely overlapping ripples in the same pond, and certainly not connections to a new world.

            Many people in this world lack any purpose at all. They stop searching for meaning, and find the endless choice of paths to be a senseless burden; for even if the path is new, it bears the same resemblance to paths repeatedly travelled. Some lie down and insist that they will not get back up again. After a time, you can usually find them walking again, with renewed vigor and purpose. Instincts, even in this world, are difficult to overcome.

             At least once, everyone tries not to follow the paths. They try to be free of them. They act like it is a giant maze, and if you could only cut out of the side, you would escape. Often, these are the same people who are found lying down.

            It is not all misery. The paths are beautiful and there are many gardeners that tend to them. It is an easy occupation to have in this world: you only need to begin tending to a path, and people will know you for a gardener. There is disagreement about whether the gardeners add any value to the paths, but it would be unwise to discuss it in their presence. It is a life’s occupation, after all.

            One day, while Albert was walking, he met a woman named Elise. Finding no reason for preamble, he told her his singularity theorem. She said it was very interesting, even plausible, but seemed much less likely than her completeness theorem: that there was quite clearly one world, and although it was expanding now, one day, every path would meet another, and then the world would become whole and complete. He said that her theory was very interesting, and indeed, even plausible, but it did not have the aesthetic merit of his singularity theorem. She corrected him, saying it was his own theory that lacked the proper aesthetic merit.

            Since they were both dispassionate thinkers, they ignored these defensive accusations, and remained firmly convinced of their theories. They walked along together, and after a time, became friends.  

            What neither of them anticipated was an abrupt change to their world, for they believed, at bottom, the future would naturally and unremarkably resemble what they already knew – until they reached a dead end. Dead ends were unheard of – apart from the more fantastical theorizing – for the simple reason that the paths had always continued, and always forked. With due solemnity, they credited themselves with a great discovery. They examined every inch of the dead end, but discovered nothing else of particular note, beyond its existence.

             Eventually, and with much reluctance, they decided to leave their discovery behind. They returned down the path, and found a fork with one of its paths ending in another dead end. This was strange, for they had already made one great discovery, and now another one was diminishing its significance. They turned around, and after a longer than usual walk, they met another fork, with another dead end. They turned around again. This time they continued walking, longer than before. They made jokes as they walked, the same as many who were walking in different places under similar conditions, about what they would give to have the senseless burden of choosing between paths. There was much talk of absolution, if only things returned to what they knew.

            After they had given into doubt, then despair, then doubt at their despair, and then despair again, they reached a fork in the path. They examined this discovery with great care and more grave emotion. They began walking down one of the paths, and after a time, it ended in a fork.

            It was strange, but remarkable, Albert thought, that after the singularity had occurred, all the paths had naturally and spontaneously ended, but then worlds had begun anew. Elise thought that it was stranger still, that the world would be so remarkably in sync that every path would simultaneously meet another, completing itself in every dead end, but then begin anew.

            Saying nothing for absolution, they did not walk together for much longer. They could not explain why, but at a fork, he decided on one way, and she on the other.

            Things continued along in this new world, until one day, Albert met another woman. He told her his singularity theorem, and she told him a completeness theorem. He was much perturbed by this occurrence, and could not help but think, that somewhere, Elise may have met a man that mistakenly thought that he, and not Albert,had discovered the singularity theorem.

            Feeling quite overwhelmed by the potential injustice, he asked the woman if she had ever heard of his singularity theorem before. She said that she had, and that unlike her own theorem, it lacked originality. He corrected her, saying it was her own theory that lacked originality.

            Luckily, they were both dispassionate thinkers, and after a time, they became friends.