Donald Trump and the Block Universe Model

At moments like these, when everything is kind of awful, I find comfort in thinking about the ontological nature of time.


There’s this theory in physics, sometimes called the “block universe model,” that time isn’t this ephemeral thing. That events don’t just happen and then disappear *poof* into the ether. Rather, all the moments of our lives, the universe, everything exist all at once. They’re always there, we just experience them one at a time in chronological succession (or something that our brains, pattern-making machines that they are, converts into a kind of linear narrative).

You can think of it like a filmstrip. The whole movie’s there, in the can, the beginning, middle and end. We see the frames one at a time as they pass in front of the projector, but the footage has already been filmed, processed, developed. The movie’s not changing. There’s suspense for us, the viewers, because we don’t yet know how it ends, but whatever that ending is, it’s already there. There’s no real suspense. Just a feeling.

Donald Trump is going to be president in 2017 and, according to the block universe model, he was always going to be president in 2017. The story was already laid out, frame by frame. There was never any hope for a Hillary presidency, not really. Just a feeling in our hearts, something we desperately tried to make real. We were conjuring ghosts that could never materialize.

There are moments in life that feel like hinges, like forks in roads, like diverging paths. Last night was one such moment. It felt like we were going to go into one reality, or another. When I went to bed around midnight, I knew I’d be waking up in a world where everything was different. I had hope that I’d wake to a new world of possibility and excitement, particularly for women and girls. That path felt so real to me; I was sure we were on it. I’d give anything for a glimmer of that feeling right now.

But the truth is, there was no fork. There was no other road. We were always going to walk to this point, watch for a second and then, when we saw there was no other choice, keep walking toward the inevitable.

Now that I’m saying it, it doesn’t sound comforting at all. It sounds pretty depressing, actually. I think why I find relief here is in knowing that we haven’t done something wrong that’s plunged us into a “dark Earth” version of our reality. We haven’t fallen onto the wrong timeline somehow. This is not a mistake.

Donald Trump will be president in 2017. This was always true, we just didn’t know it yet.

But the rest of the story is there, too. We’re still in the right universe, the only universe, our universe. It’s flawed and many of us are in pain and terrible things happen and you can never really know what growls inside your neighbors’ hearts. Things will keep on. The path has already been laid. The only thing to do now is keep walking.

The glow of the projector lights on everything in its proper time. There’s more ahead to see, to experience. There’s room for hope if it brings you joy, but you can leave your fear behind. The story’s already been written. The only adventure is in the discovery.

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