My subconscious mind has been wandering in and wondering about parallel universes. How do I know? I got a glimpse of it in a dream. I dreamed of a dear old friend whom I had lost a couple of decades ago. I hadn’t dreamed of him in a decade. But what was most startling was that he had aged (gracefully, if I may add). I was startled because never in my dreams have I ever seen someone from the future. Besides, when I caught his eye, there was a hint of recognition and there was surprise. It was as if, for a brief moment, our two universes had overlapped. I woke up with the conviction that he was there in another universe. But I have been walking in a haze all day since I woke up, wondering about the existence of multiverse.
Our timeless fascination with other worlds
Literature has dealt with parallel universes in many different shapes and forms. We have Narnia, Neverland, Wonderland from the Classics. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials explores the concept of parallel universe in a more complicated and exciting way. There is, of course, Hogwarts and the parallel universe of the wizards and witches in Harry Potter.
I have never believed in the after-life but the idea of life existing in a parallel universe somewhere is intoxicating. Strange as it might seem, it does open up the mind to other possibilities. Perhaps our limited knowledge and our arrogance disallow us to think about the possibility of another universe existing parallel to ours. Perhaps our dreams are portkeys to that universe which is well within grasp and yet like gossamer, it brushes past us and we call it déjà vu.
Is Death a portal to another universe?
Have you ever felt the regret of not letting your loved one know that you loved them? Have you ever felt, after someone passes on, that perhaps, you could have spent some more time with them? Why do we leave things unsaid?
A strange yearning has been haunting me all day because I have been living in my dream world. I have refused to awaken from that moment of sweet recognition and that surprise that our paths crossed once again, decades after we said goodbye in yet another dream. Perhaps our universes overlap because we did not get to say our goodbyes in this world.
Sometimes, our love can be so deep that even after being with them till their last breath, we feel that our time together was not enough. We wish for a little more time with them. I feel that intense longing for my grandparents. I consider myself fortunate to have spent many beautiful moments with them but it never feels enough. So, the idea that perhaps they are in another universe is comforting.
Multiverses within reach
Recently, a 12-year-old member of Book Explorers asked ‘why reach for the stars when there is so much [to fix and explore] here on earth?’ in connection to NASA’s space exploration programme. Although at the time we talked about the importance of advancement in Science and Technology, his question has left a lingering aftertaste.
Over time, the thought has made me aware of my privileged position because I don’t need a rabbit hole to tumble into another world – a world battling with hunger, poverty, lack of medical facilities, or dearth of schools. I need to only go a few hundred kilometres in any direction away from my big-city life and I will effectively be stepping into a parallel universe.
There is a thin film of ‘difference’ which separates the two worlds. There are myriads of universes out there for us to choose from, and when we do, we will realise that although we would love to intellectualise about time travel and escaping into another time where children can play outdoors with their friends again; there are many other universes on earth. The universes of a war-torn Syria or a famine-stricken Malawi, for example.
Looking a little closer, to individuals, there are the universes of the homeless, who spend their nights freezing on the streets. What about the universe of brothels and prostitutes fighting for their rights to be acknowledged as human beings? And what about the universe of the affluent? All these worlds feel like light years apart separate and yet they dwell on this very earth, co-existing but not co-habiting.
Choose your universe
A voice inside my head is chastising me for not opening my eyes to all the multiverses out there on our earth, and wasting my time over the past. ‘Live in the present’, it reprimands. Why do you need intergalactic space travel when you can simply choose any world you want and completely immerse yourself in it?
If you want to experience the universe of music, for example, there is a never-ending ocean of knowledge and experience and ever-expanding library that you can spend your lifetime in and only get a glimpse of.
Once again, my rationality has pulled me back to earth. It has opened my eyes to the possibility of multiverses here and now and on the earth as we know it. One doesn’t need to die to transcend into another universe. There is enough and more here to last many lifetimes. Some of us get to choose the universe we want to reside in. And sometimes, you don’t need to step outside to find another universe. Sometimes, that universe can be inside you and no matter how powerless you feel, no one can take that universe away from you.
The Cosmos Within
The mind and body are a continuum, one affecting the other in ways that Science is only beginning to understand. We have all heard of ‘mind over matter’ but have we fully understood it? Realising the potential of the mind is beyond simple equations and reasoning. But it is true that the human body and the mind that controls it are intrinsically interconnected.
There have been times when I have been able to steel my body by using my mind, like while running on the treadmill. There have also been times when I have been able to separate the body from the mind, like during and after pregnancy; or during a trek on a frozen river in sub-zero temperatures. My body seemed to have a mind of its own. No amount of talking to myself could stop the shivering or the core temperature dropping.
I am nowhere close to the state of detachment that seers are known to have achieved where they are able to control their bodies with their minds. But I am a keen observer of the universe within me. I continue to watch and analyse and listen to myself and I learn something new every day. But should we limit ourselves to the mind/body dichotomy? The cosmos within will not be complete without our feelings and our emotions.
So, What’s the verdict?
I think it is as clear as day that parallel universe is a reality. Perhaps not in the fantastical, mythical, or magical way (although I believe in magic exists in the everyday), but in a more real way. There are and always have been many different universes.
We, as a human race, do not have enough information to analyse what happens to people after they die. Do they go into another universe? Who knows? Perhaps it is our minds which are so obsessed with immortalising their memories that we see them in our dreams and in the faces, habits, and actions of people who share their DNA.
Perhaps a part of us wants to hold on because it is afraid that if they let go of the memories, then that part of them will die. Given a choice, we would want to escape into a different world but escape is not an option. Is it possible that what we think is an escape into ‘elsewhere’ is actually a death of sorts? Sometimes we have the power and privilege to choose our universe. Sometimes we are thrown headlong into it and we do our best to survive. Nay, we do our best to live. We do our best to live and thrive.