Timothy Andersen in aeon:
Every life contains pain. Even the perfect life, the life where you have everything you want, hides its own unique struggles. Writing in The Genealogy of Morals (1887), Friedrich Nietzsche said: ‘Man, the bravest animal and most prone to suffer, does not deny suffering as such: he wills it, he even seeks it out, provided he is shown a meaning for it, a purpose of suffering.’ A life apparently perfect but devoid of meaning, no matter how comfortable, is a kind of hell.
In our search for meaning, we fantasise about the roads not taken, and these alternative lives take on a reality of their own, and, perhaps, they are real. In his novel The Midnight Library (2020), Matt Haig explores this concept. In it, a woman named Nora Seed is given the chance to live the lives she would have lived had she made different choices. Each life is a book in an infinite library. Opening the book takes her to live in that other world for as long as she feels comfortable there. Each possible world becomes a reality.