Okay, so it’s just possible I’m from a parallel universe. You know, one of those where everything is exactly the same as here except for one tiny detail and I wouldn’t even know I’d slipped into a different dimension if I hadn’t stumbled across said detail?
The detail? Well, I’m pretty certain that in my ‘home’ universe, John Goodman is dead, and has been since shortly after the Big Lebowski… or maybe Monsters Inc. Imagine my surprise when I read a review of Argo a couple of years ago and found he was still acting. The only sane conclusion was that I’d inadvertently slipped through some kind of dimensional vortex. Admittedly I did entertain the possibility that my faulty memory had mixed him up with John Candy (he’s dead in this universe, right?) or that Dan’s heart attack in Roseanne had had a bigger impact on me than I realized at the time. But I decided to go with the alternate universe theory – it’s more fun.
I hear your smug laughter. Alternate realities don’t exist. True, they are difficult to prove but a lot of highly respected clever types – including Stephen Hawking – believe they’re out there. It all stems from various elements of quantum mechanics, string theory and M-theory and the idea that our own universe only rests in four of the eleven possible dimensions, allowing plenty of room for other options, including the one that says for every decision we take there is a universe in which we chose otherwise. I’d love to explain the theory but it’s a bit technical. I did read theoretical physicist Michio Kaku’s book, “Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos” and I’m pretty sure I understood it at the time but it all seems a little hazy now.
Anyway, we don’t need scientific gobbledygook to explain the concept when movies have done such a good job. Characters are always waking up in different worlds or being visited by alternate versions of themselves: Sliding Doors, Donnie Darko, the Wizard of Oz, even Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They all depict a universe next door or the consequences of different choices in creating a different reality.
This could all be very disturbing or very comforting. Look around you, does everything seem okay to you? Does this feel like your reality? Do you feel ‘at home’ here? Or maybe you walk around every day with a nagging feeling that something just isn’t right: the sky is just the wrong shade of blue, surely the Allies won World War II, John Goodman used to be dead…
Okay, enough weirdness. Clearly I just have a bad memory for larger-than-life actors. There is no such thing as a parallel universe. There’s just this ball of rock, hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour while we cling precariously to its surface. On the other hand, didn’t the light switch in your bathroom always used to be on the other side of the door? Ever looked at yourself in the mirror and thought that you might be the reflection?