Five Pearls of Wisdom from ‘Everything’

Leave the stoner jokes at the door and take a look at what ‘Everything’ is attempting to explain.

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Apr 1 2017, 6:00pm

Everything is a very meditative, philosophical, gently goofy game about… states of being. To play it is to be thrown into a colorful metaphysics lesson: you play as any number of animals or objects, and run/float/fly around the world, interacting with other animals and objects, all of which will offer you insights into their state of mind and general worldview.

I played this game very, very tired, on a weekday afternoon, and it was sort of perfect for the mood it put me in. I started out as a Zebra, lolling around a desert landscape in Everything's signature blocky animation, and phased around so that I inhabited everything from ants to camels to grains of sand to tiny microscopic life forms, all in search of some meaning about life. No one disappointed.

So here are a few pearls of wisdom I garnered from my time with Everything. I certainly didn't write them all down, but these stuck out to me during my journey through the sand and wind.

Note: many of these are taken from British philosopher Alan Wattstalk about The Big Bang, while others, well, I have no idea, but they intrigued me nonetheless.

All Everything screens courtesy of Double Fine Presents & David OReilly

"There's No such thing as things." 

Oh, my. There's a lot of rhetoric here about connections and matter and all things as being in a constant state of flux. The next step on that journey, of course, is to deny the boundaries that we assign to objects (and life forms), and see the whole universe, the everything, as one massive, entangled entity with near-infinite moving parts.

This is an attractive idea. Holistic, appropriately big-picture, and peaceful, even. It has limited use, potentially, in day-to-day life, where those kinds of distinctions can be useful—I approach my cats differently than I approach traffic on the street, for example, and that allows me to continue to survive long enough to ponder such questions.

"Life is about going out and getting entangled with others."

How very quantum-mechanical! I sort of love this idea though, as a pretty universal truth about the human experience, at the very least. We are social animals! The human brain wasn't meant for solitary life.

"To make yourself the destination, and enjoy never arriving."

We're getting into 90s new age self-help territory here, but this is useful framing both in a "hey, I'm on the subway with nothing to do, let's ponder the big questions between stops," kind of way, and in a practical sense. The brain never stops learning, contrary to some old notions about elder dogs and new tricks. You could take up any skillset: rock climbing, preparing fine sushi, orienteering—or have experiences in your life: pain, love, acts of kindness. It all contributes to the work in progress that is you. I dig that.

"You're not something that is the result of the big bang… you are still the process, you are the big bang, the original force in the universe"

This is precisely the sort of "whoa man!" perspective-shifting intellectual exercise that made me want to be a philosophy major in college. That and the entire concept that abstract things like memories: the basis of the mind have an actual scientific, measurable, chemical and physical presence in the world.

Metaphysics is so much fun!

I thought I would continue in this blissful, tired-but-happy state, until I hit something in the microscopic world that gave me pause.

"My childhood was more hopeful. I'm just trying to find others like me."

That one hit me in the chest. It's a thought I have often—that adulthood sucks, not because we all have so many more responsibilities and weighty, worldly concerns, but because there is a loss of hope that comes along with the accumulation of years. Aging robs you of the magic the world once held.

I remember being young—and very lucky, in an economically and emotionally stable and loving home—and thinking that the world was infinite. That the possibilities of life were actually, literally endless. I could be anything: an astronaut, engineer, scientist, pilot, artist, athlete, doctor. All of the above, at once. I could do anything.

 

Now, as I walk to work or the gym, and I see kids playing or walking with their parents, I always wonder if it's ethical to instill that kind of hope in children. Because nothing in life will—or could—ever live up to the happy expectations that that sheer volume of optimism comes with it. I imagine parents struggle very hard with what they tell their kids about the world, or whether they are able to shield them from a lot of the despair that inevitably creeps up if you exist for long enough.

Then I think about what my own responsibilities are, in a broken reality, to my fellow humans, to repairing things as best I can. To making my own tiny corner of the universe as decent a place as I can possibly make it, for anyone in my own communities, whether they're full of people "like me" or not.

And I find a sliver of that hope again.