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Food For Thought

“What’s your middle initial?” my friend asked. Her voice, even on my cell phone had a definite note of excitement. Then she wanted to know if I’d ever lived in some town that I’d never even heard of, let alone ever lived there.
What was this all about? My friend had been browsing the Internet and found my maiden name on the list as someone who had money coming from somewhere in the past. We were both sorry that I couldn’t claim that $7,000 windfall, but I thanked her for taking the time to check with me. That little conversation set off a whole train of memories that took me all the way back to my pre-adolescent years. I remember those theoretical conversations we had at that age, when children begin to wonder about the things that they’d always accepted without question. I don’t suppose there’s an adult alive who didn’t, at one point, discuss the possibility that, somewhere in the world, they had an identical twin– someone who shared not only their appearance, but their history and maybe even their thoughts, talents, and dreams.
Some time ago, another friend told me that she had Googled herself and found nearly a dozen other women with names the same as hers. She subsequently contacted most of them and arranged a meeting for several of her name-mates which, while not a roaring success, was interesting even though they had little in common besides names.
Further reflection brought out the concepts of doppelgangers and parallel universes– those eerie subjects I remember delving into at high school pajama parties and in college dorm rooms. Having, at that age, a more scientific outlook on evolution, we generally agreed that the likelihood of identical coincidences taking place in separate places or separate eras was pretty remote. We couldn’t quite accept the idea that the same conditions would always produce the same results, based on nothing but chance. But we were tuned in to the idea that there was a better likelihood of certain conditions surviving, due to the survival of the fittest. Thus similar results were more likely than identical results.
In my lifetime, I’ve encountered enough of what we think of as coincidence that I can’t quite rule out the idea of a certain limit to the possibilities. An artist friend who, as I did, grew up in a small Iowa town, studied art at the U of I, and is a near contemporary in age and attitude, is about as close to a doppelganger as I’ve ever met without actually believing in such things. But, the first time I saw her handwriting, I wondered when I had written that. We have handwriting that is identical in every respect that I can detect.
I’ve never encountered anyone whose voice closely resembles mine. People seem to know who is speaking, even on the telephone, the moment I say a word. Not that my voice is memorable but simply because there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the world I operate in that sounds the same. My personal appearance also seem to be unique– no doubt fortunate for that non-existent twin.
I do know a lot of other people with look-alikes, though, many of whom are not to be explained by the facts of family relationship. And I know people with voice similar to other’s voices but these, along with posture, interests, talents, and temperaments, seem to be related to either nature or nurture. One of my sons who has always appeared to be a lot younger than his actual age, resembles my dad in that respect as well as his demeanor and talents. That is surely almost all due to genetics, as my dad died when his grandson was only three years old and couldn’t have learned those things from him.
Speaking of look-alikes, I understand the temptation for publicity agents and advertisers to take advantage of the popularity of public figures, be they movie stars, politicians, super heroes, or sports champions. It makes sense to take advantage of a popular and highly regarded face to get the attention of the public and gain their confidence, and Sarah Palin’s is indeed an attractive and familiar face. I’m not surprised to see her clones on several programs as well as in commercials. I do wonder, though, just why advertisers think a Gabby Gifford look-alike will sell products or services to a public that watched the tragedy of her terrible injury and painful and tedious recovery over the months. Her after-the-event image is much more recognizable than her appearance before her life was so dramatically and permanently altered, and taking advantage of her misfortune seems more than ghoulish.