This is the universe. It is made up of lots and lots of space. It is sparsely populated by widely scattered bits of matter, some very small and some extremely large, some very hot and some unimaginably cold, some dark and some light, some solid and some so dispersed as to be invisible. All these bits of matter move through space in one way or another; and thus, because they move, time is created. What you see in this picture is only one universe. This universe has certain properties and characteristics – limitations on the speed one can travel through it, laws of gravity and energy, rules about how things combine, react and decay. It’s a rather unforgiving, almost vindictive universe which allows little room for error. There are other universes, of course, with different rules and laws, places where gravity isn’t a law but only a suggestion, places where space is shaped differently and motion is other than linear, places where time vectors off in unexpected directions. Still, if you follow the rules and obey the laws, one can survive in this universe. Sadly, it would appear that we are stuck here in this universe. Worse yet, we seem to be stuck here on this planet called Earth. Even if we could leave Earth, where would we go? And why?
This is a city, Los Angeles by name. It’s a large, sprawling city in the state of California, on the west coast of the United States, on the continent of North America in the northern hemisphere of the planet Earth. The city itself is inhabited by around 3.8 million human beings. If you include the surrounding metro area, there are about 17.8 million human inhabitants, plus countless wild and domestic creatures and probably more than twice that many passenger vehicles. It is divided into little neighborhoods, many of which have rather unique populations and characteristics all of their own. One of these neighborhoods is called Silver Lake or sometimes Silverlake. There is a large body of water in the middle of this neighborhood that is not a lake at all, but a reservoir, and is called Silver Lake Reservoir. Silver Lake is primarily a residential neighborhood with businesses concentrated mostly along a few main thoroughfares. It’s a hilly area and there are many long stairways hidden among the houses that make for interesting and strenuous hikes for adventurers like my wife and I. Along with the people, you will find coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels, rats, mice, birds of all kinds, dogs, cats, and perhaps a few chickens. Silver Lake lies between Hollywood and Glendale to the east and west and between Echo Park and Los Feliz to the north and south.
This is a house in Silver Lake. It sits about a quarter of the way up one of the hills that rise above Glendale Boulevard. It is one of two houses on its lot, the one in the back is a smaller bungalow style house. There is a long driveway that runs the length of the property with a small carport at the end. There are colorful resin gnomes in the flower garden at the front of the house and some plastic pink flamingos which are rigged with small low voltage light bulbs that illuminate them at dusk and shut off around midnight. The house in the back was built around 1926 and the house in the front was built in around 1937. Over the years, many people have inhabited the two houses. Each has left his or her mark on the property, often by planting something in the yard. Most of what has been planted in the yard and other planted areas around the house still remains and there is almost no unpaved area around the house that does not contain some sort of plant. Some of the plants were put there intentionally, some grew up as a result of seeds left by birds and squirrels, and some don’t actually have roots on the property but are invading from the five neighbor’s yards. During the height of the growing season, it can be almost a full-time job keeping the plants under control; and, often, control is lost toward the end of the season and only regained as cooler weather sets in and the plants slow down a bit. There is an apple tree near the side door, a fig tree on the west side at the end of the front porch, a lemon tree outside the dining room window, an avocado tree and an apricot tree along the driveway, and two guava trees and a cumquat tree along the bungalow and a small strawberry patch right next to the gardenia bush at the front of the house. The squirrels eat all of the avocados, some of the guavas, a few of the apples, but none of the cumquats. The birds eat most of the figs. Carol eats most of the strawberries.
This is the living room of the house in Silver Lake. It is where many books are kept, always handy for reading, research or reference. It is also where some favorite paintings and photos are hung so that they can be enjoyed and shared as the residents and their guests move about the house. This room is where dinner parties occur, where friends and family gather to enjoy good food, where stories are told, experiences are shared, philosophies are explained, games are played and politics are sometimes discussed and disputed. Most of the time it is only occupied by the two cats that reside in the home, as it is a room rich in sunbeams and comfortable places in which to nap. This is a room for sharing and playing chase and relaxing and communicating and chasing strings and sharpening claws and getting petted and finding friendly laps to sit in and opening gifts and toasting the new year. It has a high ceiling that is good for hanging mobiles, or strings of lights, or allowing lofty thoughts, dreams and ideas to go soaring about and return to a gentle landing only to be re-energized and again sent soaring.
This is an office and a studio and a den and a toy box and a rehearsal hall and a classroom and a theatre. This is a place for creating things, a place for new songs, new stories, photo projects, drawings and sketches, sculptures and imaginary worlds. It’s an international communication center and a workplace with a window, not only to the world, but to the camellia bush on the east side of the house where the sparrows sit and chatter at each other. It also serves as an entertainment center for the house, where movies can be viewed and sometimes enjoyed, and where music can be played and always enjoyed. It is crammed with tools to be used to create things, art of various kinds mostly, but the entertainment aspect is important too, as that can enhance the creative environment. Of course there are books in this room, too, as there are in every room of this house. The books in this room are mostly about writing and drawing and music and photography, but this is also a reading room, so you’ll often find a number of current favorites stacked within easy reach of the comfortable couch. Underneath this room, is a workshop containing tools for working with wood, fixing pipes and wires, tending the garden, and building and repairing cars. These days, I spend less time in the workshop downstairs and more in the office-studio-den-communication center. There is also a kitchen nearby full of tools to create tasty and interesting meals, and a bedroom where I go to rest and snuggle and dream.
This is my body, a rather unhandy identification card that allows me to manipulate the tools I use to create things. It also serves as a rather clumsy and inefficient communication device for interaction with other inhabitants of this universe. It is quite fragile, intolerant of temperature extremes or sudden accelerations and decelerations, and demands far more attention in its upkeep than it should. It wears out far too quickly and much too frequently and its replacement is inconvenient in the extreme.
But where am I in all this? Where do I live? I live in all of these places and in none of them. I live in this universe, the one we all agree upon with the clouds and the sky and the stars and planets and cars and trucks and people and animals and insects and gardens. But I also live in my own universe, the one where the dreams are not only created but where they come true. The one where I make the rules about time and space and energy, where new worlds come into being, where new ideas are born, where I can build things and blow them up and it doesn’t matter because I can build them again even better. And I can choose to create the things I make in my universe in this one we all agree on. Or I can just keep them where they are and enjoy them there. I can create something in my universe and then use all the tools that I have to bring it to life in this one. Usually, the things I create are not quite as pretty or aesthetic in this universe as they are in mine, but I do the best I can with the tools and materials that are available. But the rules are different in my universe, so it is not always easy to duplicate things here. Still, I try, life after life, to bring some good things into being so that others can enjoy them and strive to do the same, just as you have been doing all these millennium. It is not so much a matter of where one lives that is important, but more how one lives and what one leaves behind. Will I create things in this universe that make it a better place to live in? I hope so. Will I add more joy to the universe than I received? I’m working on it.