Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Grass is Always Greener

They say that the grass is always greener in the next universe. The groove is always funkier. The water is sweeter and the sun is warmer. The tears are not as salty and don’t fall as swiftly. Maybe the multiverse theory is just a way for cosmic theorists to mathematically validate their fantasies. In the past we had Walter Mitty, the Land of Oz and other fantastical escapes. Now we have actual numerical theories which posit the possibility of an infinite number of universes, where every possibility is a reality.

Religious believers employ this “grass is always greener” concept when they put all their hopes in the idea of a heaven, whether that heaven is lined with gold streets and dead relatives or has ninety-nine virgins waiting for the next crazy suicide bomber. You don’t need to be a member of a church to feel spiritual and you don’t need to be a monk to find enlightenment. False hopes lead to dead ends and a lifeless existence. Stop and look around you. The beauty of life is astounding, from the colors and scents of flowers to the bird songs of robins, chickadees and the common flicker. Breathe it all in and savor the universe we find ourselves in.

Robert Fulghum, author of that classic book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" put it this way: "The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are."

If the theoretical physicists are correct then there very well may be another universe, where I am rich and famous, but not nearly as good looking as I am here and now. If we all hunker down here in this world, obeying archaic patriarchal laws, we’ll die old and unfilled. Sometimes reality feels like a foot on our face, not allowing us to get on with our deepest desires. This is my path and those Marks in the multiple universes, like bubbles in soapy water, have their own paths with their own ups and downs.

We all have a bit of Walter Mitty in us, imagining ourselves in some bigger and shinier reality. Here I barely have time to write trivial blog posts, never mind fantasize about what other Marks are doing in the multiverse. Those Marks need to take of their own problems, cash their own checks and marry or divorce as they see fit. I can only attempt to control my own destiny and that’s a futile task. Control is out of my hands. The sooner I realize that the better off I’ll be.

Mindfulness is all the rage these days and it teaches that there is only this moment. We might as well all agree that there is also only this universe. All other universes are theoretical at this point and even if there were evidence for their existence, we have no way to take a vacation in a parallel universe. We have this moment in this space in time, and we all have to make the best of it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Two Book Reviews

We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown UniverseWe Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not a physicist or a mathematician, but I've always been drawn to the Big Questions. This book is just filled with Big Questions and lots of humor. Whiteson and Cham explain in layman's terms and with cute comics, the five percent about the universe that we do know, while opening up the readers' minds to the 95 percent of the universe that we are still stumped by. They explain how we might tackle these still unanswered questions and give us hope with the fact that we have managed to learn so much about our universe in just the last few hundred years. I admit that I read a few chapters more than once in attempt to absorb the heavy stuff, but that's because I really want to learn. Some of this stuff is downright mind boggling! and who could have guessed that footnotes could be so funny?

* * * *

Goodbye, VitaminGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Ruth is visiting her parents for Christmas, her mother asks her to stay for a year to help care for her father, who is starting to suffer the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, Ruth is trying to find her own footing, after her fiancée left her for another woman. "Goodbye, Vitamin" is narrated by Ruth in short diary-like entries that are often very funny, but by the end of the book these vignettes add up to a moving chronicle of familial love, as Ruth finds meaning and connection in some unexpected places. "Goodbye, Vitamin" sneaks up on you and may have you laughing out loud and then bring you to tears on the same page!

Rachel Khong was the managing editor then executive editor of Lucky Peach magazine from 2011 to 2016. "Goodbye, Vitamin" is her first novel.

View all my reviews