I’m weird. At least that’s the message I get from “normal” people when I start talking about Lord of the Rings, X-Files, Star Wars, The Matrix, Fringe, Star Trek, Avatar, Stardust, Babylon 5, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones. Even Harry Potter sometimes. They either roll their eyes or make an UGH noise or both and start to turn away. What they don’t understand is that my obsession with science fiction and fantasy is what informs my conceptual and creative thinking. And it’s science fiction that helped me to create the one reflection activity you’ve probably never done before.
The Terminator and I
It’s 1984. In a dark hotel room in Los Angeles, Arnold Schwarzenegger stares emotionlessly at his reflection in a bathroom mirror. He takes an X-acto knife and unceremoniously sticks it into his right eye, digging out the orb as blood drips into a half-filled sink. As I cringe and cover my eyes, Arnold drops the eyeball into the water with a BLOOP. The camera pans back to the mirror, and we see black and a red dot where the white and an iris used to be.
There are many memorable scenes from The Terminator, but this scene seared itself into my memory. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with science fiction and fantasy.
If you haven’t seen the movie (spoiler alert), here’s the gist: a resistance fighter in the future sends one of his soldiers back in time to protect his mom from being assassinated by a robot also sent from the future--if you haven’t guessed yet, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the robot. Time traveling and alternate timelines is a theme in The Terminator franchise. This theme also pops up in a number of other books and movies, including the Fox show Fringe, starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble. It developed a cult following and, for five glorious years--yes, glorious--explored the gray area of science, including time travel, alternate timelines and parallel universes.
If you are rolling your eyes and making UGH noises, hang on. I swear this is going to be worth it.
Consider the possibility
The idea of parallel universes comes from the theory of a multiverse, an infinite amount of universes with their own laws of physics, where somewhere out there, another you might exist in the same form and in many other forms. This isn’t just fiction. Scientists--physicists (yes, like Sheldon and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory)--are working the math and testing this theory.
“This is crazy!” You might say.
See? I’m agreeing with you that this is weird.
I’m definitely not a physicist. I’m pretty sure I don’t understand most of the stuff I’m reading about the multiverse. When people ask me if I believe in this stuff, I’m just like, “I dunno. Go ask the physicists. They’re the ones doing the math.”
What I am asking is, “What if?”
What if in another timeline, another reality, a parallel reality, there is another me?
Writing a letter to myself
I think we’ve all written a letter to ourselves at one point or another. A few years ago, however, I went to Thailand to visit the village where I was born and started asking: What if there is another me in another timeline? I have no doubt that had my parents decided to stay in Thailand, I would’ve been a different woman living in a very different world. So I decided to write a letter to that woman.
Here’s what I learned from writing that letter:
- I am stronger than I think.
- Even though I didn't have much growing up, I have always had more than I thought I did.
- This life is a gift, and I’m grateful to my parents for handing it to me. Twice. First when I was born, then second when they brought me to the U.S.
See? I'm not so weird. Now, I’m going to challenge you to write a letter to your other self. You can start by using my storytelling worksheet.
If you’d like me to run a reflective workshop for your group using this framework, feel free to visit my “Work with Me” page.