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Despite my best efforts—watching Nova on PBS, reading pop-sci books written in the simplest terms—I don’t understand the multiverse theory. You did a math problem and came to the conclusion there are an infinite number of parallel universes? I’ll take your word for it, Mr. Hawking.
It was a relief to learn that the “theory” isn’t a theory in the scientific sense, but mere hypothesis. The implications are horrifying. For every universe you raise a happy, successful family there’s one where you’re miserable and destitute. That time you felt queasy and saved yourself embarrassment by not attending your brother-in-law’s dinner party is a wash, because one universe over you did attend and were browner and sadder for it. Every dumb observation, inappropriate joke, Vox headline, and rude comment you kept to yourself was blurted out by one of your parallel “selves.” Decisions don’t matter.
The sleeper hit Everything Everywhere All at Once, which opened nationwide last weekend, shows that if nothing else, the multiverse theory is a goldmine for creative storytellers. It’s about Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) who is at her wits’ end. Her laundromat business is in hot water with the IRS, her marriage is struggling and she’s not even aware her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) has filed divorce papers, her college-age daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is dating a woman and that won’t go over well with Evelyn’s father (James Hong) who is visiting from China.