One ticket, please, for that other Earth.

Offline. What a weird concept. It didn’t even exist back in the eighties when the most we could do to “disconnect” was take the phone off the hook.

Which I never did.

That was back when I was the social version of myself.

Now I’m more a hermit version, but I still can’t totally hang up the phone. Even though I WANT to get away sometimes and pretend I’m visiting another planet, the best I can do is limit my online interactions to peeking at Facebook and the once-in-a-while check of my email on the smartphone. That’s me being offline.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been more or less “offline,” recovering from a tiny personal writing depression. I stepped away from blogging and tweeting, and I rarely updated FB status.

While I was “away,” I watched this crazy movie called Another Earth. I’m sure all you speculative fiction buffs out there know about it.

Anyway, I totally loved this movie. It’s less about the science fiction part–basically a “parallel” earth shows up one day and a group from our earth decide to go visit the other earth’s versions of themselves–and more about the human psyche.

The story’s complicated by guilt and secrets. A teenage girl makes a bad decision, goes to prison rather than MIT, and ends up a custodian cleaning her high school. I don’t want to say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the story.

Since watching the movie I’ve been wondering what it would be like to meet another version of myself. To see myself from the outside.

Would I enjoy looking my doppelgänger in the face?

At first, I like the idea, but the more I think about it, the less I like it. What if I couldn’t stand to be around myself? What if she was better than me at Words with Friends??

For the longest time, my husband wanted another job. He’d been at the same job for more than a decade, and he dreamed about the possibilities of a new work environment. But when he finally got this great offer from a company he’d been lusting after for years, he nearly didn’t take it. Once the offer was on the table, the reality hit him. The job he had wasn’t horrible, but the new job…well, he just didn’t know. It could be horrible. Or it could be good. Or it could just be different.

That’s an overly simplified version of my husband’s story, but my point is, it’s much easier to think of something in the abstract–like, oh, wouldn’t it be cool if I got a great job offer? Or, wouldn’t it be cool if I could meet another version of myself in a parallel universe?

But when you’re faced with the reality of a thing, when the possibility is staring you in the face, it looks different than when it was just an abstract construct in your mind. The way you think about it changes.

That’s what I like about books and movies. Even though neither are “real” per se, they present you with a feeling that is more real than your random musings. Books, especially, give you an experience as if you are another person. That experience can stay with you for your whole life, almost like it was your very own experience. And in a way, it was.

In my own mind, I can imagine taking a trip to another earth. It’s cool and weird, but a forgettable thought bookended by the week’s grocery list and my daughter’s soccer schedule.

But when I watched the movie, Another Earth, I felt like I had an experience. I’m thinking differently about the questions the movie raised.

Recently an article called “The Neuroscience of Your Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy Paul was published in the New York Times Sunday Review (March 17). Here’s an excerpt:

Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

I guess that’s why I’m so committed to the idea of writing a really good story. Because stories can change people’s thinking. Stories can remind us that our own experiences are limited, that to have an experience can bring about a new (better?) understanding of a thing, and that we should be mindful of our limitations when making judgments. Stories are powerful.

So now I’m back online and back to writing. *I’ve missed you all.*

I’m not necessarily going to write a story about another version of earth. But in a way, I guess I am.

All stories offer another version of reality, of life on this planet: A new experience to stimulate the brain and change how we act in life.

8 thoughts on “One ticket, please, for that other Earth.

  1. YES – experiencing this today: “But when you’re faced with the reality of a thing, when the possibility is staring you in the face, it looks different than when it was just an abstract construct in your mind. The way you think about it changes.”

    • Hi Ann! You’ve got me curious! What are you facing that in its reality is different than when it was just a thought in your mind? Any big decisions/changes on your horizon?

      P.S. Thanks for checking out my blog!

    • Thanks, Aubrey! I honestly can’t remember that article, but I’ve kept the quote with me and think about it often–even used it when I went into my daughter’s classroom to teach a writing workshop. I truly believe that story is powerful and can change the “real” world. I spent time doing public relations and know that if you can get people to buy in to the story of a thing, they will accept and support the thing itself. Fascinating stuff, really. Hey, thanks again for the blog award nomination. I hope it’s okay that I’m slow in acting on it. 🙂 Also thanks for your comment!

  2. Two years ago I can honestly say that I would not have been very impressed with meeting myself for the first time. These days though I know I would like me. It sounds like fun. And I’d love to see what I am like in a parallel world. Would I be even more amazing than when I am at my best, even worse than my lamest moments or so similar that there would be nothing to report back to this blog post?
    Until that happens I will just look for that movie and enjoy it.

    • Nice comment! I’d love to hear what you think about the movie. Part of what compelled me about it is the notion that even though we can’t control events, we can control our decisions. And sometimes even the tiniest decisions have big consequence — for both good and bad. The decision to act (or not to act) can change the course of a life. That’s an overwhelming concept when you really think about it, but it also makes me feel empowered. Like I’m in control of much more than I might think. Like I can make things happen for myself. You know?

  3. Pingback: Year One | Hot Pink Underwear

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