Thursday, 11 June 2009

Parallel lives

Somewhere out there in the vast emptiness of space, there is probably an alternative Earth. Indeed, astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.

Of course, the chances of us colonising it are prettly remote. It would take us several thousand years to reach it - by which time, we would probably have forgotten why we were going there anyway.

But it has set me thinking about the possibility of parallel realities.

When I was a teenager I read a short story by some sci-fi great like Clarke or Asimov about a parallel world where life started in the same way that it did on Earth, but took a different turn at a key point in its evolution. Instead of evolving from monkeys, the dominant species in that reality evolved from lizards.

So, taking that concept to its logical conclusion, somewhere out there, there is probably a scaley green Mandi staring at a computer screen trying to think of something inspiring or even vaguely interesting to write. Intead of the obligatory cup of tea or coffee, there will probably be a glass of slime by her elbow (do lizards have elbows?) ready to be knocked over the keyboard at any minute. And lunch is not likely to be a Greek salad but maybe an insect omelette. But, except for such minor details, I reckon that she and I are probably not all that different.

I'm sure that we both worry about our offspring, stress out over the bills, fret unnecessarily about bad things that haven't happened yet (and probably won't) and wish there were more hours in the day. I'm sure we both have moments when we want to be more selfish and think about only ourselves, followed by gushes of guilt for daring to be so self-centred. And I'm sure we both sometimes track the progress of our wrinkles in the mirror and wish we were carrying a little less excess baggage around the thorax.

Reptile Mandi probably doesn't have to worry about fixing her hair every morning, but then I don't have to consider when I am next due to shed my skin. So I guess it all evens out in the end.

A decade or two ago, there was a great print ad campaign for a major airline with the tagline "More unites us than divides us". Each ad carried a photo of people from different cultures in comparable situations, for example, a blushing white lace-clad English bride next to a highly-coloured lavishly-decorated Indian bride in all her gold and glory. The message was that although the two contrasting images were visually drastically different, the hopes and dreams of the people depicted were the same.

That has always stayed with me. Let's face it, whether we're talking about Reptile Mandi from Planet Slime, Susie from Skegness, Christiana from Copenhagen, Betsy-Sue from Missouri, Beena from Bangalore or Fatima from Fallajah, we all basically want the same things in life. A little peace and quiet, health and happiness for us and our loved ones, the bare necessities to lift our existence above "struggle" status.

When you put it like that, it all sounds so simple. Shame we always manage to complicate things.

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