The theory goes that each time we make a decision, no matter how small, in another place the opposite course is taken and things turn out differently.
It’s all rather mind-blowing to imagine such a thing until you think back to the seemingly minor actions or meetings that resulted in big life changes. And then wondering what if you’d said no instead of yes, or turned left instead of right.
The most obvious example in my case would be when I first met Mrs P. I was in a nearby town on a Saturday morning, not something I normally did, when I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for several years. We got chatting, then he looked at his watch and said he had to go as he was meeting friends for a lunchtime drink. Did I want to join him?
I should have said no as I had other things to do, but it was good to see him again, so I said why not. One drink couldn’t do any harm. Off we went to the pub and one of those friends he mentioned turned out to be the future Mrs and the rest is history. Or alternate history if you go along with the theory because if I hadn’t happened to be where I was, if I hadn’t happened to run into an old friend, if I hadn’t agreed to that one drink, then me and Mrs P might never have met.
But I’ve managed to sidetrack myself since what set me thinking about the idea of alternate universes was watching the Open at the weekend. Golf has never interested me much, but I couldn’t help but admire Henrik Stenson’s skill in the final round and it occurred to me that for all I know, I could have been a great golfist, but I will never know because I never tried.
And not just golf – I might have been a great boxer if it wasn’t for my aversion to being hurt, or a brilliant surgeon if I’d studied Latin harder and was not so averse to other people’s blood, or a famous film star had I but kept up with the amateur dramatics that my mum pushed me into as a boy. Or, heaven forfend, the new England football manager if I’d ever developed a taste for public humiliation and approbation.
All those other ‘mes’ successful in fields I never dreamed of and all because of the different decisions or chance encounters that didn’t happen in this world.
And if the alternate universe theory holds true for me, then it holds true for you too. An infinite number of all of us whose lives diverge with each turn we make. Like I said, a mind-blowing concept and too much to cope with in hot weather, so I’ll leave it there!