A colleague recommends Laurence Krauss’s book ‘A Universe from Nothing’ as a mighty good read. The science – all string theory and dark matter – is a challenge to one whose physics never progressed beyond refracted light. But the cosmology is little short of mind-blowing: Krauss suggests that far from inhabiting one known universe, we are very likely part of a multiverse – in which an infinite number of universes, with nearly identical conditions exist out there, unseen. It would be as if the universe we know is just one slice in a loaf of bread. The concept that Krauss and other physicists now postulate is that out there in other universes alternative versions of ourselves almost certainly exist. In some parallel world, for example, you may decide to devour Krauss’s book, while the you on earth pores over the latest cookbook instead. In such an expanding-space scenario, we may have more free will than we ever believed.
The idea that we may be leading more than one life at a time may sound wacky, but if correct, we could be rueing life mistakes we have not even made on some distant Sirius or Saturn. To put a sliding-doors slant on this, it may that earthbound fearful souls are emotionally daring out there on some very foreign field, commitment phobes may be happily partnered up and addicts freed of their life-wrecking yokes.
We probably won’t prove this dizzying hypothesis any time soon, but the notion of possible difference is one that we might helpfully borrow for the here, now and all-too human. In recent years the word ‘authenticity’ has become a therapeutic buzzword, with counsellors encouraging clients to be true to themselves and live according to their own lights, without seeking the approval of family, friends and our wider circle. Psychologist Carl Jung calls this ‘individuation’, the process by which the personal and collective unconscious are brought into consciousness to reveal one’s whole personality. So far, so emotionally healthy.
But maybe we could also benefit from adding a little cosmology to character building: how about experimenting with the often-buried bits of our character that may already be out there and proud somewhere in the multiverse? We act as if hard-wired always to be the same – which sometimes constrains us to our detriment. How often do we think or say ‘Oh that’s just not me!’ or ‘I’d never do that’ when faced with the unfamiliar or slightly edgy? Why wouldn’t one walk the Three Peaks or volunteer for a Barnardos’ play scheme just because the suggestion has never swung into our radar before? At least explore the idea before hitting ‘reject.’ Why should we keep on replaying the same old unproductive couple argument when an alternative exists, if only we cast around for it? How often do we put up with being let down by others who fail to keep promises without making waves or in any way letting them know we feel ill-used? Why not get in touch with our assertive self for once and speak our mind? It could be truly liberating to change the frame that fixes our ways of being almost as if we were painted and hung, immutable, on a gallery wall. Like the cosmologist’s multiverse we humans are multi-faceted, and might benefit from exploring and displaying certain aspects of ourselves that we’ve suppressed or ignored. As the positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale put it: “change your thoughts and you change the world.’