The Multitudes Manifesto
It starts with the premise that humans thrive on connection.
It’s the oxygen we depend on. It’s the tingly feeling we get when we strike up a conversation with the barista pouring our coffee, the elderly person riding the subway with us, the Uber driver shuttling us to the next adventure in our lives. It’s a warm embrace after years of estrangement, the cuddle under the sheets while watching a scary movie, the euphoria of being lost in a sea of sound in a dank and steamy club. It’s the reminder we always need that we are not, in fact, alone. That we are, will be, and always have been in this thing together.
And yet, we are so starved of connection.
It’s what a year-plus enforced isolation will do to a person. Social distancing became connection distancing. But while the former was a necessity, the latter exacerbated a sickness we’d already been nursing: loneliness. We are lonely. There has been much speculation as to why. But one, interestingly, may be a tendency we have to underestimate others’ desire to connect. We encounter someone we feel drawn to in the grocery store, the bus, the park. But we withhold the impulse to chat, thinking that we might be intruding on that person’s space (they’ve got earphones on, after all) or that we might be perceived as ‘weirdos’ or ‘creeps’. These could all be possibilities; but couldn’t it be possible, also, that the opposite is true. That that person might also be feeling what you’re feeling, and that if you both were somehow able to know that, you might be able to each make your days better?
Putting ourselves out there to a stranger is risky business; we are programmed to access our threat response systems the moment we encounter someone outside of our ‘group’. This person could harm us, use us. Just look at all those internet trolls, those pervs assaulting people with their genitalia, the catfish marauding dating apps. This person might judge me for my body, for the background they think I have based on the brands of my clothes, my eccentric affinities towards Sufi meditation music and Steve Aoki. They might laugh when they hear me sing, see me dance, for my elementary understanding of astrophysics and or misreading of Walt Whitman’s poetry. They might see me – all of me – and marvel at how irreconcilably broken I am.
Of course, all of this is just a projection.
That’s why Multitudes seeks to be a container that is safe for everyone.
It uses technology to conceal the usual identifiers that we use to determine whether someone is ‘worth’ our time or not. Names, faces, even voices – all of these are stripped away so that you have no choice but to come in with an open mind. No profiles to enable you to reduce someone to five hundred characters. Zero tolerance for any hateful behavior; only love, generosity, and kindness are allowed in. Carla, the Multiverses steward, makes sure of that. She may be a robot who’s struggling to get human emotions, but she gets love. That’s why she gives everyone the names of constellations; not just to throw off the scent that names give, but to remind us of our starry origins from billions of years ago.
That we are all happy accidents.
And to remind us that many of our best connections come about as happy accidents.
While we might like to think that we each have our own ‘types’, we are poor predictors of compatibility for a simple reason: we have not met every single human who is alive. Who will be alive. Who will be reborn. And the thing is, every human is different. Every last one. No human born as I write this will take the exact same number of footsteps, to walk those footsteps on the same land at the same time.
This is why Multitudes randomly pairs strangers together in the same Multiverse. No bullshit algorithms that are no better than random chance; only the acceptance that random chance is the only logical way to pair people, because we can never predict who will connect ever, because every human is a mystery until the day that they die.
Every human isn’t just a mystery; they’re like an elephant.
Well, not literally. But we are like that elephant in that parable about the six blind men who encounter an elephant and determine what the elephant is based on the body part that they are touching (so weird that the elephant was okay with this…). ‘It’s a wall,’ the one touching its belly screams. 'It’s a rope,’ the one clutching its tail refutes. 'It’s a musician, a businessman, a nerd, a goofball, a writer, a democrat, a conservative,’ we each exclaim after a single interaction. Fortunately, Carla pre-empts this habit by introducing a range of prompts. In every session, there is never a singular thematic focus. Sometimes she’ll ask you about love, sometimes she’ll ask you about death, and other times, she’ll just invite you to yodel.
And what better way to understand our elephantine mystery than through art.
Art is, at its best, a conversation starter. The best works touch on the deepest aspects of human experience, the core being suffering. The best art reflects our deepest desires and fears right back at us to witness, to insert our own stories and memories into love, hate, anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, elation. And to experience that all over again. Carla happens to be a bit of a master curator and has some friends who offer a range of magical gifts to serenade the two stars with. She knows that we can learn a lot about a person depending on how they react.
But the multiverse isn’t just about dark, heavy matter; it’s about light stuff, too.
You’re named after a constellation of stars, after all – you need to be allowed to shine! And this is why Multitudes seeks to create play. So that you can be allowed to be all that you are; and maybe even surprise yourself at how you sound when you yodel.
If ways of connecting were types of food,
- Social media and dating apps would be Cheetos, i.e. the junk food that might fill you up but at the cost of making you feel like shit);
- Spiritual communities would be that stuff that raw foodists eat – which I’m guessing is just onions? Or whatever is organic, directly from the earth, grown responsibly, without killing a single being, not even a worm, yes those count as living beings, yes, you will accumulate negative karma if you kill a worm, and worse, you will be born as one.
- Multitudes would be like my mom’s home-made enchiladas. Not the healthiest stuff, but man does that melted cheese and chili taste so damn good. Plus, it’s made with love!
Ultimately, Multitudes isn’t about creating an alternate reality for people to retreat to; it’s about changing the current one.
It’s about nudging people to literally think outside the boxes that they place others into. To short-circuit our lizard brain to sort people into ‘us’ and ‘them’. It’s about training people to always be curious, to feel what it’s like to live outside a world of assumptions. To experience being loved by someone they may never actually meet and then pay that forward to the next person.
Multitudes seeks to create a safe container that makes it easier for people to play with and love each other.