158. Equally mysterious mysteries…

“I’m thinking of writing my dissertation about the work of David Lewis on modal realism.”


“His idea is that there are a number of possible worlds, of which this is one. That when something happens, there is another world in which that thing hasn’t happened and events follow through from that.”

“Like in the film ‘Sliding Doors’?  So there’s one world where Gwyneth Paltrow ends up with the chap who played Hugh Grant’s deaf brother in ‘Four Weddings’ and one in which she doesn’t?”  I say.

“John Hannah,” says ActorLaddie.

“Well yes, but more so.  For every event which might happen there exists another possible world in which that event didn’t happen.”

I frown, trying to think this through.  ActorLaddie is also frowning.

“That’s a lot of worlds,” I say, lamely.

“He also did Rebus,” says ActorLaddie.

“Of course,” adds InfantPhenomenon, “the word ‘actual’ is a bit misleading. Strictly speaking, it’s indexical. So, everyone thinks their own world is ‘actual’ in the same way that everyone thinks their own place is ‘here’ and their own time is ‘now’.”

“Right,” I say.

“Though I’ve always imagined Rebus as more heavily built,” says ActorLaddie.

So perhaps there is a world in which, three years ago this weekend, the neurologist got me to do all the same tests – the flapping, the counting backwards and so on – and then said, “you’re worrying about nothing. You don’t have Parkinson’s – probably just a spot of Essential Tremor. From what you’ve told me about your granddad, you’ve probably inherited it from him. Maybe, like him, you could clean up down the Snooker Halls. You just need your brother to point out your tremor to unsuspecting strangers and encourage them to bet against him and your fortune is made. Now go away and stop looking up symptoms on Wikipedia in the middle of the night.”

And then what? In that possible world, I’d almost certainly still be ploughing on at school, counting down the days to when I could retire and have some space to do other things with my life. I’d be spending today fretting about planning and writing reports, not sitting by the picture window watching the bird feeder. No term-time holidays. Little time for the garden. Few chances to stand and stare.

There are some sparrows.

Parkinson’s would still be something frightening that happens to old people; to other people. I certainly wouldn’t be involved with projects at the Royal Free, or discussing the possibility of doing some talks for Parkinson’s UK. (I’m uncommonly excited about this; I do like a captive audience.)

And magpies.

We’d not have moved to this lovely bungalow. There’d be no blog and Jellywoman would just be a twinkle in the eye of her vegetarian-gelatine-alternative-based parents.

I guess only a fool would wish upon themselves a (currently) incurable, degenerative disease. But my current actual world, my current here and my current now is good and I’m happy to settle for that possible world, in the present moment.

A great spotted woodpecker, forsooth!

Or, in the words of that great philosopher Ralph, from The Simpsons, “my cat’s breath smells of cat-food”. And you can’t say fairer than that.


Just discovered this blog?  On the right, there are links to some of my personal favourites.  You can sign up to receive an email when each new blog is posted.


DearHeart tells me that she’s just ordered some Wiltshire Farm Foods for a housebound relative through the GiveAsYouLive scheme, bringing us 27p closer to a cure.  And many thanks to you if you’ve also used the scheme this week to raise money for a charity.  It’s easy, it’s free, it helps.

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