In golf, a mulligan is when you hit an errant tee shot and get a do-over. Mulligans are against the rules of the game but they are often allowed in friendly contests. In some charity golf tournaments mulligans are even sold to raise money.
The game of life isn’t a charity event. Mulligans are strictly prohibited. The outward expansion of the universe, the second law of thermodynamics, and the subatomic workings of the weak nuclear force all conspire to keep things moving forward. And let’s not even get into the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, which posits that decoherence as manifested in wave function collapse is time irreversible.
I wish I could go back to Monday morning and keep from sliding into the curb and damaging my radiator to the tune of $1,100. There are other, more momentous, events I wonder about doing differently. What if I had stayed at Laurel Par Bible Chapel instead of moving to Chicago in 1990? Or stayed in Chicago instead of going to San Jose in 1995? Or taken a real job instead of becoming a writer?
Who’s to say these choices would have been better? Perhaps if I hadn’t hit the curb I would have slid into a car in the next block and hurt someone. If I hadn’t moved to Chicago or San Jose or Colorado Springs my children wouldn’t have met and married the wonderful people who are now my daughters-and-son-in-law.
The Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics holds that every possible outcome to every event simultaneously exists in a “multiverse” of parallel universes. “In layman’s terms, this means that . . . everything that could possibly happen in our universe (but doesn’t) does happen in some other universe(s).”
An interesting theory, which does you and me no good because parallel universes—if they do exist—are physically inaccessible (another consequence of quantum decoherence). And in the time stream of this universe, we can’t swim backward, slow down or tread water.
There are, however, a few things we can do:
We can admit our mistakes and learn from them. (Go slower on icy streets.)
We can ask forgiveness when our actions have hurt others. (And give it when we have been wronged.)
We can make amends where possible. (Restitution restores relationships.)
We can adjust our course by using our rearview mirror. (Hindsight can help steer us toward wisdom.)
We can accept what is and not linger on “what ifs.” (Learn to let go.)*
There are no mulligans in life but every day is a new hole, so tee up and swing!
* Aren’t artificial alliterations absolutely annoying?