Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Mandela Mandala

My wife and her older brother have been having a discussion lately about the Mandela Effect. If you're one of those head-in-the-sand types, as I was before I got to sit next to half of the conversation as it took place over long distance, then you should know it is the collective misremembering of an event. It takes its name from the death of Nelson Mandela. Apparently many people remember the anti-Apartheid leader dying in prison sometime during the 1980's, not in 2013 after serving as South Africa's president. Other instances of this phenomena include the line "Play it again, Sam," which does not appear anywhere in the film, Casablanca. It is this kind of confusion, primarily based on elements of pop culture, that has led to the suggestion that we are living in an alternate time stream.

To be more precise, there are those who believe that the startup of the Hadron Collider in Switzerland a few years back caused an inter-dimensional rift that caused us to start remembering things from that other place while over here in what we assume is reality those things are just a little different. Like the Berenstain Bears. Or is it really the Berenstein Bears?

Creepy, huh?

I confess that there was a time during my late teens and early twenties that this sort of talk was fascinating to me. It coincided with my reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Coming unstuck in time and place was a pretty regular occurrence in those stories. He gave me this great name for such a time-place: Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum. When I was a lonely nerdy guy searching for a reason for being so lonely and nerdy, the idea that I was not in my correct time-stream gave me some comfort. Once relativity got a nudge from some other coincidence, my life would straighten out and all would become clear. I looked for coincidences and holes where I could point to that vague way things have of being not quite right: unfinished, or just a little too finished.

And then my life filled up with other things about which I needed to worry. Stuck here with the mundane and Berenstain, I stopped worrying about suddenly awakening in a world where Curious George has a tail. I took the blue pill. And I took comfort in having seen Casablanca enough times that I can imagine why someone might truncate that heartbroken dialogue between Rick and Sam into "Play it again, Sam." It's storage issue. As for Nelson Mandela, it seems to me that most of us experienced his legend more than his reality. The idea of a martyr dying in jail is more appealing than a life in politics after being released. Or leading the first manned mission to Mars.

Oops. I probably shouldn't have mentioned that one.

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