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Superheroes and Multiverses

I have never been drawn to the “superhero” movies, the Marvel franchise which has really taken over the film industry, in an almost frightening fashion. $220 million in the first week for “Spiderman,” very impressive, but while so many other films have lost money, or are trying to barely make a profit? Well, I cannot mandate taste, and I know that many millions of people love the superhero movies; and they are lucky, because there are another fifty or so in the works. They expand outwards, one giving rise to another, with sequels and spinoffs, and new characters and emanations.

I suppose it does not take much perceptiveness to understand why so many are drawn to these movies. Big budget spectacular graphics, sweeping scores, good vs. evil, but where you are pretty sure that the good, while never completely prevailing, will triumph against most of the villains, of which there are many. And of course the escape from the worries of this world, and one’s daily life, to a place which is part complete fantasy, part somewhat recognizable, but which, like comic books, I imagine, is never too close to the mundane or frustrating parts of one’s normal activities.

There is certainly a place for escape, and we need what the arts can provide in that way, though we may have differing opinions as to what constitutes great or even good art, and how much time we will spend on the various manifestations of it. For my part, I worry that the good drama, the mystery, or noir (!), or touching human drama, will be not only pushed to the side, but perhaps rendered almost nonexistent, by the almost irresistible force that Marvel has become. Why is a movie house going to show such films, when they are desperately trying to stay afloat, and they see that showing the newest superhero blockbuster twenty times a day on five screens, will bring in far more money?

Well, just one more thing to worry about, I suppose! I do not want to begrudge people the enjoyment they get from these movies, I just want there to be enough of the other kind, but I really wonder if there will be. I want there to be enough different kinds of movies and books and TV shows for everyone, but the nature of capitalism is that whatever is shown to bring in the most money, whether it was Model T Fords, or McDonald’s hamburgers, or Starbucks lattes, is going to proliferate and often drive out the competitors which try to make better food or movies which are only appealing to smaller segments of people.

I cheerfully admit that I have so rarely watched a superhero movie, so I really don’t know much of what they are about. I saw the Christopher Reeve Superman movies years ago, and I pretty much liked them. I like the Superman origin story, there is poignancy and drama in it. I saw one Batman movie, I think the one directed by Christopher Nolan, which certainly was atmospheric; but from what I read, most of the other Batman movies are not as good, and repeat the same themes of Gotham City being filled with darkness and evil. Superman and Batman were DC Comics creations, not Marvel.

I saw the first Spiderman movie, which I thought was okay, but sort of silly, and that people would not want to keep seeing movies about him, and I was completely wrong. And there are so many more superheroes who now have movies about them, than there were in the comic books which I would sometimes read at the corner barbershop, where all the boys would go to have their haircuts, and you had to wait an hour or more, so you read whatever comic books were on the tables. Even then, I would mostly look for the Daffy Ducks and Scrooge McDucks, and then some of those which rather imaginatively rendered famous suspense or horror stories, rather than the superhero ones.

One aspect of some of these newer films which is a general subject that I certainly am interested in, is that of the “multiverse.” Now, I am not going to research the science of this to write about it now, so I almost certainly will miss some of the film aspects of it. My understanding is that various scientists in the last fifty years have speculated about the possibility that there are other universes. This is based on various scientific theories and observations, but cannot be proven.

We know that we exist in this universe, and that at some point, all the stars and planets will either burn out, or in the expanding universe, will become so far apart, that there will be no light, just an endless darkness, essentially the end of the universe. Anything like this always upset me; and when I read that the sun would burn out in billions or trillions of years, and expressed my concern, my parents laughed and said that there is no sense to worry about it, we would not be around for it. I think that parents, well-meaning, usually say things like that! It worried me, though! And I read some scientist not that long ago saying that the invevitability of it is infinitely depressing to him.

But if there is this universe, there could theoretically be more! The question I had never seen satisfactorily answered, is, “What was there before the big bang?” Scientists had developed the theory of “The Big Bang,” that every element of the universe was contained in a singularity which exploded, sending all of the elements to expand outward. But what does that mean? There was always this singularity, nothing before it?

Now scientists are reshaping their knowledge and theories, and believe that there was no “big bang,” no singularity, but rather “cosmic inflation.” They do not imagine that the universe began with a singularity, based on various observations. But of course that causes us to ask, “What was before this cosmic inflation? Was it always there? Was there something before it?”

Scientists cannot answer that. “Let there be light”? But if so, where did God come from? Isaac Asimov wrote a short story where the universe was going to end, and the scientists created the biggest and best computer ever made, which assembled all the knowledge of the other computers, in an effort to save existence. And the computer typed out, “Let there be light.”

I can understand how our solar system began, and then the miracle of how this one planet, over millions of years, slowly cooled, and then that minute organisms were created, and over more millions of years, evolved into different life forms, all the beautiful trees and flowers, the water creatures, some of which ultimately crawled onto land, and became all those amazing amphibians and reptiles and birds and mammals.

And then humans, who somehow seem to be destroying all of it, so that a few of them could make immense amounts of what they call “money,” so that they can have more land and food and water and power than their fellows. To think of that is to be filled with anger; which is why some commentator the other day wrote that this is probably why the concept of the multiverse is becoming so popular, because people desperately hope that there is a better world than the one this is becoming. That is not very profound, but it is still worth considering.

So if there is this world, created in whatever fashion, there could conceivably be other worlds; that would seem logical, although it seems to me that the “big bang theory” made it more likely that something like this could happen many times over eternity. Someone once compared it to pancakes bubbling up on a griddle. But if it is cosmic inflation, maybe this is the only cosmos? If we think that yes, there are other universes, are we in them? Different versions of ourselves? Is each of our actions potentially giving rise to an alternative universe; i.e., if we take a step this way instead of that way, does an entirely different universe create?

The problem with that idea, for me, is that every single action could lead to a different universe. Not just the big ones: whom we marry, what job we take. That is fun for fiction stories, but it would seem that it would not be controlled in that way, as to importance. So if I type the word “the” here, that is in this universe, but if I deleted it, and typed. “or,” that would create another one? Hence an unlimited amount of universes, since there are almost an unlimited amount of potential actions at every second?

That seems logically possible, but what is the import of it, if we could never have access to one of these worlds? Because I think that access is crucial to any fantasies we might have about alternative universes. Could we ever reach a world where people or pets that we loved, are still alive? Could we interact with them? Could we leave this world and go to one of those?

I don’t see how it could be possible to inhabit more than one universe at the same time, but maybe the scientists who theorize about the most abstract concepts have ideas about that. It seems that we are stuck in this one, and have to somehow try to make this a better one.

If we cannot visit an alternative universe, it would seem that the conception of them is more of a palliative to give us hope, but not a concrete reality. It might mean that we could live more lives after our deaths, but would we be aware of it? No one on this planet has ever given a believable account of their past life in this world, much less another one. Yes, there have been various people who have told about past lives, usually they were once kings or queens or something important.

Some have done it under hypnosis; sometimes, as in the Bridey Murphy case, it is almost believable, but usually debunked. There is a woman named J.Z. Knight, who lives in Washington State, who has made millions of dollars purporting to channel a past warrior being named “Ramtha.” And upsettingly but probably inevitably, I just read that she is a radical zealot who says that murder is not wrong, who has tied in with QAnon, who called for armed rebellion if Trump were not handed the election. Somehow it always comes down to human greed and hatred, no matter how much it is hidden in some kind of higher pseudo-religious language and performance.

One wishes one could believe in one of these reincarnation stories, or in mediums, who used to proliferate, particularly in the 1920’s, which the fine and unknown movie “The Awakening” described as “a time for ghosts,” since so many had tragically lost relatives in The Great War, and desperately wanted to believe that they could communicate with them. But we are still waiting for some indisputable proof of it. The great Harry Houdini promised that if there were any way that he could communicate with people on this side, after his death, he would do it. But he has not, though there are a few stories about candles burning on or out after he died.

So we have the question as to whether alternative universes can exist? Then, do they exist, and are there an infinite number of them? Then, can we, here, ever access any of them; go there; or see them in our mind and interact, see different versions of ourselves?

Immensely fascinating questions; but without the ability to ever interact with a different universe, it seems to have no import to us, other than in the realm of the movies, where I imagine that different entities cross over, and that there are multiple versions of heroes and villains fighting each other.

If that is the case, I would imagine that the excitement over multiverses will wane, and Marvel will come up with another theme. Now, while I am very much not a computer person, the concept of simulated worlds does seem possible; lives which seem real, but which are controlled or at least initiated from computers. Someone wrote something about how, if we are all in a simulated world, and want to survive for another round, we have to try to make our lives so interesting or unique, that the gameplayer will want to keep us around. I don’t know if such a concept is encouraging, or depressing.

“I am not a number! I am a free man!” Points if you know what that is from! Perhaps the greatest show in TV history, and without any of the Marvel superhero elements, but just one man, without superpowers, fighting for the survival of human individuality and freedom.

2 Responses

  1. “I am not a number! I am a free man!”

    Probably the best show on television. Ever.

    You’ll like this: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x492pwi

  2. My mother used to say that her idea of heaven was her family’s cabin on Picnic Island, Honey Harbour, on Georgian Bay where she spent every summer when she was growing up. She would dream about it. If there is an afterlife or another dimension or universe where we go when our time on earth is over, I see my mother on that island, with her loved ones who have also passed beyond this vale of tears, enjoying a perfect forever summer day.

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