But if you or someone close to you are among the distraught, fear not. Zayn may still be crooning away! British cosmologist Stephen Hawking, recently interviewed by the NPR program "AllThings Considered," told hosts Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel: "It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe, lies another different universe. And in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction."
Let us consider the idea of parallel universes, or alternate realities, as they are also called. In these other universes, alternate versions of yourself, based on you you'd have become had you made different choices, are acting out their own lives in quiet anonymity. And each day we make hundreds if not thousands of choices, most of them unconsciously. Like what time to get out of bed. If and when to brush our teeth, and for how long. What to have for breakfast. Etc. So there are really infinite versions of you. Most daily decisions are so mundane as not to seem worthy of consideration or to impact a person in any grand sense. But any choice, however minute, can have powerful ramifications. You just don't know it, because life seems to flow on without much ado and rather steadily. But had you decidedly differently. . . . Case in point, had I not decided this autumn past on that early morning bike ride I'd not be walking around with three screws stuck in my thigh.
Think for a minute of some of the major crossroads in your own life. We all have them. The times in life, and there are usually a handful, when you are confronted with a major decision, which usually boils down to choosing between one of two alternatives. Go right or left. Opt for A, or B. For me, four such crossroads come to mind.
What if I had married my high school sweetheart at 17 (we talked about it)?
What if I went away to Berkeley for college rather than stay at home to attend UCLA?
What if, when I was thirty, my girlfriend Shannon and I had chosen to keep our baby?
What if I had not gone to medical school?
Had I chosen differently, each alternate choice would have given rise to a different self, which according to Hawking is walking the world in a parallel universe. Perhaps the same universe in which Zayn is still generating hits for his band. Maybe in some universe you or I are members of One D. OK, I'll admit that's pretty unlikely.
What if who I am now, the product of my decisions, the current version of me, in the here and now - I mean the one who never married, stayed home for college, and chose not to become a father and instead went to medical school - sat down with the Me who wed as a teen, the Me who went up north for school, the Me who is now a father of a 13-year old, and the Me without an MD. What if we got together and, I dunno, went bowling? Personally I'm not a big fan of the sport. But maybe one of the other Mes has cultivated a passion for the pins. They like to bowl in Berkeley, right? Didn't the Dude Lebowski spend some time in San Fran?
For instance in the sci-fi flick Looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt interacts with his future self, played by Bruce Willis.
In Multiplicity Michael Keaton plays a guy who never has enough time for the things he wants to do so he has himself duplicated.
In Back to the Future Marty McFly travels back in time, and also forward, to spy on his alternate selves, though he's careful not to interact with them, lest he "create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe!" to quote Doc Brown.
Back to bowling.
So it's Me, and married Me, and big daddy Me, and NoCal Me, and non-MD Me. I look around and wow, we all look really different. One wears a perma-frown. One is kinda chubby. One has that whole power grunge look going, like he was ripped from the set of Silicon Valley (I mean the dude on the far left). Maybe even the Dude himself! No, two are power grunge. Writers and computer programmers dress so much alike, the slobs.
First of all the married Me would certainly be divorced by now, and really bitter. We were way too young to play house, me and Neysa. Had we recited vows in our teens, the whole thing would have crashed and burned, for sure. After all, that's what happened to Neysa's first husband. A year after she and I broke up, she married John, maybe even before high school graduation. And a few months later they went bust. In her words she turned his life upside down and then upside down again, but the result wasn't right-side up. I think John lost his mind. Seriously, got whacked out on drugs, maybe even spent time in a psych ward. That could have been me! That alternate me could be out of his mind f%$&@%#%ing crazy!
And had I gone to NoCal I most definitely wouldn't have gotten so into body-building. While at UCLA I virtually lived at Gold's Gym, Venice. So that Me cannot say that he used to be able to bench press 300 lbs. Whatever that's worth. Who knows, maybe I would have gone into computer programming. That Me is probably the founder of Google. Living large, bitches! Instead I stayed home, went through a depression, got turned on to metaphysical books (specifically I Am That and Conscious Immortality). Which is either the best thing that has ever happened to this me or else it is the worst. After reading these books, which catalyzed a process of turning within, of forsaking the world and its worldy pursuits, I have renounced material life, which many, including certain members of my own family, cannot understand. But Justin and I got so close during my college years. He died a year after I graduated. The Berkeley me never had that time with my brother. But maybe in that universe, Justin is still alive. This is starting to get complicated. And, oh, the Bay Area Me is a bowler, if bowling is big there.
The father me would probably have a dadbod. After all when Shannon and I were a couple I liked to binge drink at night and scarf down KFC and Dominos on weekends. That can only go on for so long before you start to resemble Seth Rogen. And I'd probably be a divorcee (Shannon and I would have married for the kid's sake, which is not the right reason to get hitched, and probably broken up) and so I'd be bitter - that makes two bitter, divorcee Mes - only this one has a teenager to support. I'd be struggling to make ends meet - but perhaps I'd say that my son (or daughter) was the best thing that ever happened to me, cliché that it is, and well worth the twenty extra pounds around my midsection.
I recently saw an interview with John Oliver and Dave Letterman. Letterman asked the Brit what he did before he hosted the hugely successful Last Week Tonight, and he said he spent 10 years barely keeping afloat as a stand-up comedian. The road to material success can be arduous. Maybe I'd have been the next Shane Black. (Who set a record in the late 80's for selling his Lethal Weapon script for a cool million.) Instead I am a professional without a career. (If I were living in ancient Greece they'd call me a philosopher, which is better than being a deadbeat!)
But maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. Maybe had Neysa and I tied the knot, I wouldn't have gone the way of her husband because we were perfect for each other. Maybe we were soul mates. And we'd have stayed together, and been happy, and had kids we didn't abort, and I'd write things that sold because I was living authentically and maybe also get an advanced degree, just because. But then I wouldn't be this Me, and I like who I am, unemployed, friendless and broke though he may be.
See, with all that gain, comes a loss.
The same John Oliver who worked ten years to get to his hit show recently told Letterman he spends his entire week preparing for/stressing about/mulling over his 30-minute episode, which airs live only once every seven days and for only a part of the year. This is success? Any venture that would not allow me time to cook my own meals, spend an hour in nature, clean my own quarters and do a combination of working out and lying quietly daily for hours on end would not be worth it, however much they paid me. Success as slavery, if you ask me.
But then again, maybe the non-MD Me isn't quite so solitary.
My point is that in any scenario, there's always going to be good and a bad. And the mind likes to play at potentials, but life works out exactly as it should - at least it does in this universe; I can't speak for others. And if I ever get together with the other Mes and we ask ourselves, What, other than our early upbringing, do we have in common? The answer, when you strip it all away, is the consciousness, the awareness that proclaims, I AM. This awareness transcends differences of body habitus, opinions, life experiences, advanced degrees or lack thereof. It is the same in fame and shame. This being-awareness-bliss I share with all the Mes in all parallel universes. I share it with Zayn, too, and you.
And Neysa was not the one. Because she isn't the one, get it?
To quote the One Direction song: "There's nothing to be afraid of, even when the night changes, it will never change me and you."
Now if I could only find a Me that plays guitar. I don't think even Zayn can do that.