One Week after September 11

Originally posted September 18, 2001

It’s been one week.

So this is the first anniversary of sorts. And next week it will be two weeks. And then it will be a month since. And then it will be six months. And then a year. And then five years. And then ten years.

When all the networks went back to “regularly scheduled programming” it felt wrong. I’m not trying to pick a scab or dwell or anything like that, but it seems like it’s still right here, y’know? It seems like it just happened this morning. I don’t like the idea of “getting back to normal”. I’m not talking about some demented, bleeding-heart, “the people that died can’t go back to normal” empathy. I just mean that it doesn’t feel right to “go back to normal”. What the #$*@ is normal? Nothing is normal.

Everything is a little bit “out of whack”.

Someone on mefi wrote something about the world feeling as if it’s shifted a degree, as if everything is a little bit “out of whack”. This is Bizarro World. I feel like I don’t live in my world any longer.

SupermanI used to read comic books all the time when I was a kid. Man. I loved Superman and Batman so friggin’ much. (I remember when I got to college and had a taste of having my own money, one of the first things I did was get subscriptions to all the Superman and Batman comics.) For those of you that don’t know, there are basically two universes in the genre of “the comic book”. There’s the DC universe and there’s the Marvel universe. The Marvel universe contains Spider-Man and the Hulk and the X-Men and always seemed a bit darker to me than the DC one. In the DC universe live Superman and Batman and the Green Lantern and the Superfriends. I’ll grant you that Batman has a pretty dark side, and there are always these dime-store tragedies about the Dark Knight and Batman carrying a gun and being a vengeful creature of the night. But in general the DC universe, to me at least, was a brighter one. Truth, justice, and the American way, y’know? The “good guys” almost always win in the DC universe. Spidey’s radioactive spider bite and the mutants of the X-Men … everything in the Marvel universe to me always seemed too comic-book-y. They’re all freaks, y’know? Some weird, strange thing happened to them. The DC heroes, though, always seemed like plain guys (like me!) who somehow became heroes because of some overwhelming desire to do good. Does that make any sense? Probably not. Definitely not if you weren’t the type to ever read a comic book. Regardless. Maybe you’ll see the distinction, maybe you won’t. Even Superman – strange visitor from another planet – was just good old Clark Kent from Smallville, y’know? And Bats – sure he was a multi-millionaire – but inside he was just a kid who saw his parents murdered and wanted to make the world better. Whatever, Dave! I know. I know. I’m sorry. None of that is my point.

My point is that in the DC universe, before about 1986, they had a little continuity problem. See, for some reason they felt the need to deal with the fact that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent should have been like 60-yr old guys and yet they still looked like they were 28. Now … I personally didn’t have any problem with this. WTF? Y’know? They were comic book characters. I didn’t care that they were always young and strong. Anyway. They dealt with this conundrum by theorizing that there are (were?) an infinite number of universes. This universe, the one you and I inhabit, the one with no superheroes, actually existed. I think Flash was the first one to put it all together. He had to do something and was vibrating at super speed and accidentally popped into another universe. Universe B. Or Universe 2. Something like that. He realized he was on Earth 2 because there was another Flash there. So the theory went something like this: There are an infinite number of universes that all exist in the same place in the space-time continuum, but they all have different phases or something like that. All the atomic particles in each universe vibrate at a different speed so they are in the same spot really. And if you could change the vibrational speed of the atomic particles in yourself, you could shift into one of the alternate universes. Nifty. Time passes the same way in all universes, but events are completely different. Well. Not completely. They are very similar, but with an infinite number of them, well, anything can happen. I remember on one Earth the Germans won WWII. And on one Earth everyone was telepathic. Stuff like that. In 1986 DC Comics created a Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series to bring all the universes together. It was pretty cool. If I remember correctly, Flash (from Earth 1) and Superman (from Earth 2, who had gray hair and had married Lois) gave their lives to save all the universes and combine them or something like that. And the whole problem got started when one of the original Green Lanterns looked too far back into the beginning of time or something. It was awesome.

I always liked the infinite universes theory, and have kind of adapted it for myself. I think that – and I feel very strongly about this – the universe in which I live (and you!) is infinite. There’s no end to space, y’know? You can’t go to the end of the universe. I know there’s all kinds of scientific evidence to suggest the universe is expanding and there was a Big Bang and all that. But, really. What’s on the other side? More universe, I tell ya! I mean … it can’t just stop, y’know? So. My theory is that since we live in an infinite universe, and since there is an infinite amount of space in this universe, well … jeez. This is kind of complicated. Time is infinite, too, right? I mean … even if there was a beginning and / or will be an end to everything … there would still be something, right? No matter if you believe in Heaven and God or whatnot. There can’t be an end to the universe. Even if we’re all at some point disembodied spirits in eternal paradise, we’re still something, right? And to be something we’d have to be somewhere. Get it? Okay. Well. If you’re with me so far, the rest is a bit easier. If there is an infinite amount of time, and an infinite amount of space, then the theory kinda proposed by Flash actually makes sense. You don’t even need all that crap about atomic particles oscillating at different speeds and time and space overlapping. There’s plenty of space (and time!) for an infinite number of Earths.

I keep hoping that I will wake up and realize that this is a dream.

Stay with me for one more sec? If there’s an infinite number of Earths, then anything is possible. But wait! It’s even better. Not only is anything possible, but everything actually will happen! (I feel like a Ginsu salesman!) There’s even more! Not only will everything happen, but everything has happened! And will happen again! Holy crap can you believe it?! Germany did win WWII somewhere. I’m a six-foot-four Arab somewhere! You have green toenail polish and a hair lip somewhere! Somewhere Johnny Carson was the foil and Ed McMahon was the host! On some Earth somewhere there are no people, only scrubbing bubbles that clean unused bathtubs! On some Earth somewhere all the dogs are vegans who attend monster-truck pulls and read Aristotle! Do you get it? On some Earth somewhere, everything, everything, every tiny little atom is exactly, ex-#$&*-actly the same as it is here except you, dear reader, have blue hair.

Is it crazy? Maybe. I don’t think so. I think it makes a lot of sense. If you have a better grasp or theory or explanation or anything for the concept of INFINITY then please let me know.

Now here’s my point: I feel as if I thought I was in one universe. And now I feel like I’m not in that universe. I feel like I was completely mistaken. I feel like the universe in which I live is not the one I inhabited before September 11, 2001. I don’t like this one as much. I know that somewhere in this infinity in which I live there is a planet Earth on which every single thing is exactly the same except that on September 11, 2001 not much happened. And I know that on one Earth somewhere everything is exactly the same as here except that on September 14, 2001 they found 5,433 people huddled in a Starbucks at the bottom of a pile of rubble, safe and sound and highly-caffeinated.

I keep hoping that I will wake up and realize that this is a dream. But I’m not so insane to believe that is true. But I am insane enough to believe that somewhere in this universe this never happened. Okay.

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