The Physicists suggest that the number of parallel universes could be near infinite. Some of these universes might even follow wildly different natural laws than the universe we recognize. In these universes, everything is different.
There is another thought that says the parallel universes are nearly identical to our own with small changes that might alter the world in huge ways.[i] Germany does not have to win the Second World War for everything to change.[ii]
Many people remember the original Star Trek episode where Kirk ends up on an alternate Enterprise where everyone was evil. At the same time the bad Kirk ended up on the good Enterprise. This is a rudimentary expression of alternate realities.
There is a thought that at each turn or decision a parallel universe splits off playing out that story.
The Gwyneth Paltrow film Sliding Doors is a good example. A young woman runs to make a train. At this moment the action splits. In one scenario, she makes the train goes home and finds her boyfriend sleeping with someone else. While her life is awful for a while, it gets better. In the other scenario, she misses the train and does not catch her boyfriend’s philandering. She stays with him, gets pregnant and her life is awful in the end.
I like this idea of diverging universes being generated by each decision or event. Some have a short life because the consequences are minimal. Others persist due to the divergent scenario. They continue on in their own place. There are many ways for me to drive home from work. While the choice might save a minute or two of travel or be more or less enjoyable (as much as sitting in traffic can be enjoyable). The larger impact of the decision is not to be known. Going left rather than right at this stop sign might keep me from being in a horrible accident. It is best not to think about things that can’t be known.
Years ago, I had to make a decision to either take a job as Resident Stage Manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville where I would be working at a higher level or remain at Arkansas Rep as the Production Stage Manager where there was the possibility of directing. I went to Louisville. For many years, I could almost sense the other me living out a life in Little Rock. I kept wondering whose life was best, the one I chose or the other me who chose the other path.
In 2004, The Chicago Cubs were on their way to winning the National League Pennant. Then, a fan reached out a grabbed a foul ball keeping the Cub fielder from making an out. After that, the Cubs collapsed, lost that game, a few more and the series. Being a huge Cubs fan, it made me question why this me had chosen to live in a universe where the Cubs not only lost every season, but raised my hopes to dash them every year. In another parallel universe there had to be another me celebrating the Cubs winning the World Series. That guy in his universe was clearly having a better life. Why was I living in this one?
In 2000 when the election was decided for Bush by one vote on the Supreme Court, a parallel universe was formed where the one vote went to Gore. The United States were split; divided down the middle. We have remained divided over the last twelve years. I always considered the split universe was continuing right alongside this one, undetectable, though present.
As the forthcoming election approaches, I read an article by Paul Waldman about how the Republicans characterize Obama as being divisive.[iii] Obama has many flaws, but being divisive is not one of them. Waldman theorized that the Republicans were projecting their own divisiveness onto Obama. I had complained for months that the favorite Republican tactic was accusing their opponent of being and doing the very thing they were doing. I thought this was a sinister and conscious campaign tactic born out of the sick mind by the likes of Karl Rove. I’m beginning to believe that they actually believe what they are saying. They are projecting their own flaws on Obama. They are unable to acknowledge that these are their very own flaws, that would be too much of a psychological undertaking.
When Clint Eastwood had a conversation with an invisible Obama at the Republican Convention, it became clear that they were seeing a different Obama. John Stewart made serious fun of this on the Daily Show. He joked that they saw another Obama than the Obama liberals see.[iv]
I think Obama encourages projection. He is a mirror. Growing up as a mixed race person, he seems to have developed a high level skill of being a chameleon. Rather than blending in with the environment, he reflects what you want to see. That is one of the reasons it was easy for everyone in 2008 to hang their hopes on him. He reflected people’s hopes and desires. He has also become the reflection of all that is bad. People see him as they want to see him. It is one of the reasons he is struggling with this election. People who hung their hopes on him became disappointed. There was nothing he could have done to maintain the shine people put on him. And those who projected their negative beliefs on him easily had them confirmed. The more his shine is tarnished, the more they saw the flaws that they projected on him.
All of this has made me wonder something new. Could we be living in two or more parallel universes at the same time? My Republican friends and family see a very different world than my Liberal and Progressive friends. Could it be that the film, boundary, veil between the parallel universes are thinner than we think? Are the alternate realities not only perceived by each person, but are also collective? Do we pass from one to the other as we pass through the day.
I keep hearing people respond to news stories, fact checkers, and, well, all media with the statement: “I don’t know who or what to believe anymore.”
Is it possible that the true revolution, the difference in view points and our inability to bridge the dividing gap and come to any type of agreement in America is that the disagreeing parties are living in a different parallel universe?
We might be really living in the multiverse.
[i] Ok, I know I’m generalizing even beyond my general knowledge. I’m trying to get to an important idea. If you want to know more about the Multiverse, I recommend:
Paul Davies’ article “A Brief History of the Multiverse”. New York Times. 12 April, 2003.
George Ellis’ article “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?”. Scientific American 305 (2) pp38-43.
Or Wikipedia is always good for a primer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse
[ii] There are many books that chase some form of this idea. I like Fatherland by Robert Harris and The Plot Against America by Philip Roth.
[iv] Here is Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoqKdWY692k&feature=related
Here is John Stewart’s take on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDWOduw-Rnc