Disclaimer: I know this is unscientific. I don’t believe or accept anything without convincing enough evidence. This is just me thinking out loud, a fun bit of hypothesizing rooted in my curiosity about the bleeding edge of studies into the nature of what we call reality. If you’re taking this too seriously, don’t.
Anyway, in summer 2016, I had a strange experience still lingering with me today.
It was a simple, stupid, routine thing: I was crossing a competely empty street – no vehicles coming from any direction – and I felt my whole body tense up and briefly seize as I reached the other side. I froze and suddenly felt what I imagined my final moments would be like as I’m struck from nowhere by a large, teal-colored semitruck. This vision flashed through my mind in vivid detail, a first-person hallucination where I felt my body crumple so far I didn’t feel anything before oblivion took me in a snap second.
Just as quickly as the feeling rushed through me, it was gone. I startled out of my reverie and kept walking, trying to shake my head clear of what I just experienced.
Basically, I felt as though I just been struck, crushed and killed by a speeding semitruck, even though no such thing actually happened. I was fine. There weren’t even any nearby vehicles to draw this sudden mental flash from.
My brain looped through the incident over and again.
Was it leftover trauma from when I was struck by a car on the UMN campus in 2013? That had hurt, but it was very low speed and my left leg recovered in a year. So it wasn’t super traumatic in the longterm.
Eventually, I started to wildly hypothesize that my vision had actually happened – just not to me. What if it happened to another version of me, one that split off? What if there are multiple parallel realities, and what if the barriers between those realities can actually be quite thin??
It sounds insane. It probably is insane. But it’s not completely without basis.
Theoretical physicists, those incredible and magical thinkers of the scientific world, will often talk about the Many Worlds Interpretation1, or MWI. If you’ve never heard of this before, you may have seen its essence in sci-fi and shows like Rick and Morty or the fantastic Counterpart.
The theory basically postulates that all possibilities play out simulataneously, and that each and every action we take or don’t take splits off infinite parallel realities each representing an alternative action or result.
If this idea holds some kind of truth, there are numerous strange implications3 to ponder. For instance, there may not be a single narrative of your life, but several. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as individuals in the traditional sense, but as a multiplicity within a single entity, one that could ultimately be considered immortal.
Mathematically, proof for MWI seems to hold up.
Experimentally, demonstrating MWI is a vastly tougher thing since it may not be possible within the realm of current science to test it.
But what about anectdotally?
What if phenomena like déjà vu, dreams, clarivoyance and other odd cognitive experiences are some or our multiple personal realities bleeding into one another?
Imagine you’re thinking of approaching someone to introduce yourself. You do it and feel a sudden sensation that you’ve met them before, a strong sense of familiarity that shouldn’t be asscociated with someone certainly you’ve never met before. But what if you had met that person before, just in a different timeline, and there’s some kind of mental resonence leaking between dimensions?
And what if, like the movie Arrival, time doesn’t have to be linear, but our brains evolved to perceive it as such? And what if it also evolved to compartmentalize our perceptions into a kind of tunnel vision? In many ways, the latter is already known to be true
These seem like fringe ideas. But theoretical physics is full similar-sounding ideas these days, much to the consternation of experimental physicists4.
However, other phenemona may explain these sorts of incidents better. A whole slew of cognative biases6 could be to blame for déjà vu and similar brain glitches. The frequency illusion7, for instance explains a lot of strange coincidences.
I’m not sure though which cognative bias explains my brief pseudo-hallucination and similar instances though. And if MWI does hold some truth, to what extent can it/does it affect our daily realities?
Anyway, again, I’m thinking out loud. Maybe I’ll write some fiction about it.