I Want My Multiverse

And I want my multiverse now.

Given that war is the archetypal splitting point for alternative history, perhaps the threat of fascism accounts for the rise in popularity of parallel-world stories in the 1940s, sometimes as wish-fulfilling escapism, as in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), or else as warnings of alternatives that could so easily happen. In Borges’s short story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ (1940), for example, an invented world causes reality itself to cave in. A year later, Borges again worked the theme of branching realities, in a wartime spy story called ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’. When the American physicist Seth Lloyd met Borges at a Cambridge reception in 1983, he asked him if he was aware that this story eerily prefigured Hugh Everett’s concept of many worlds. Borges had never heard of it, but said that it didn’t surprise him that physics sometimes followed literature. After all, physicists are readers, too (of literature, and of history).

Yes, this is an essay on the theoretical concept of multiple universes existing at once, but the one line that seemed to really stick out to me considering my current state of mind is:

Benjamin says that to understand fascism we need to appreciate how in an oppressive regime every day is presented as a new emergency.

As is often the case, some of the most interesting parts of an essay like this are the comments. The very first comment I read was in reference to how the above Benjamin quote made the commenter “shiver.”

Cool, at least I’m not alone.

Leave a Reply