Things that are bigger on the outside – you only see a slice of something you know extends farther. Mad Max: Fury Road has that with its characters – their backgrounds are not spelled out in detail, even as they inform their personalities and choices. It makes the movie seem bigger than it is. No Man’s Sky is currently accomplishing this by releasing only short segments of gameplay, each with the promise of infinite worlds beyond the amazing things that we can already see.
Glimpses – like the technique of fading quickly to black over and over in a blockbuster movie trailer – give us the promise of potential. Whatever our brains might imagine to fill in the gaps, we know that what is actually there might be even better. (Or, if you’re talking horror, much much worse.)
A superposition of states like this feels more vast than any single state, can ever be, no matter how incredible and awesome the reality. Collapsing the wave function into known facts is satisfying at the precise moment of discovery – a relief from the constant brain-searching of possibility-space – but then it’s all over. Those excited neurons go back to regularity.
What feels limiting about the real world is exactly its sometimes over-defined nature, and what feels wondrous about it is when we gaze up into infinite space or down into the sand and moss, and know that we are a mere speck amongst the unfathomable. We can push forward, continually learn new things, but there will always be more discover. Like a puzzle box containing and contained in countless other puzzle boxes.
When the possibility of discovery is at hand – the moment just before you open the box, the magic of not-knowing-yet, the dissatisfaction of not-knowing-yet, the curiosity that pushes your mind into the cracks in the world, real and fictional alike – that is the most luscious, alive-feeling thing I know.