Pocket Universes

For the past few summers KE has offered a film discussion class based on a common theme. This year’s installment is inspired by the film Room, an emotionally tense and disturbing portrayal of a woman and her son held captive in a shed behind her abductor’s residential home. For the young boy, Room is all he knows, he was born into this world. After watching it I became captive to an idea: What is my equivalent of Room—what has been constructed for me and what do I construct that confines my perception? I also wondered what other films use the idea of characters coming to realize that the “world” they live in is either a small fraction of a much larger canvas of reality or a myopic view based on the constrictions of their perceptions or beliefs.

Films that first came to mind were The Truman Show and The Matrix, both follow a conceit that reality is a construct manipulated by others (in which we exist). I began to wonder how films reflect this theme in different ways, less obvious ways. From the confines of an airplane and a 14 hour flight I expanded my repertoire of current films (The Danish Girl, Spotlight and Joy) and the film series for this summer was born—the topic indeed was not confined to a small genre of film; the theme is a pervasive human narrative. The question then arose: what to name it? I wasn’t even sure how to search for films of this nature and so I came up with a placeholder title: ‘A Wider Lends; Expanding Our View.” In the end googling led to discovering the term “Pocket Universe.” At first, the articles relating to this concept were about physicist Alan Guth’s “Inflation Theory” and his speculation about the ever recurring generation of new universes. Guth’s words: Our sun is just one of at least 100 billion stars in our galaxy and our galaxy is just one of 100 billion in the observable universe. The most plausible models of inflation suggest something called eternal inflation. That means that once inflation starts producing universes, it never stops and that means that we’re not just part of a vast universe, but that ours is merely one “pocket” universe in an ever-expanding multiverse.

Guth and his colleagues are light years from the confines of the pre-Copernican Revolution. Earth is far from being the center of anything (other than our perceptions and now debunked belief). The universe we live in is a mere pocket and Guth’s use of this term is meant to suggests the small scale and limited perception of inhabiting one minute fraction of space or one moment in the vastness of time. Apparently there is plenty more room than Copernicus or Galileo could have even imagined.
While science now uses the term pocket universe, leave it up to science fiction to have promoted it first. John Clute, writing for The Science Fiction Encyclopedia explains the following: It might broadly be said that the inhabitant of any constricted environment lives in a pocket universe, whether as a child, a prisoner, a victim of dementia, a chained watcher in Plato’s cave, a resident of Hell or an inhabitant of the world inside Pantagruel’s mouth. It might also be suggested that the dynamic moment of escape from confinement – a leitmotiv of Western literature – almost inevitably marks the transition from a pocket universe to a fuller and more real world.

I now had the title for our summer film series: Emptying Our Pockets. If there is room in your schedule please join us for a film series on the leitmotiv of pocket universes as we look at those who become aware of the constricted universe they inhabit, break fee and inspire us to do the same.


P.S. Summer classes begin Monday July 11 (for 8 weeks). The film series is offered on Mondays at 10:30 am and Tuesdays at 12:00 pm. Participants preview films for each class following our introductory class the first week. We will have all the films available for preview at KE–for group previews on Thursday mornings and afternoons.
KE Summer Registration 2016

1 Comment

Lois Darnnell · July 1, 2016 at 12:44 am

I’m interested. Next week, I’ll know if I can attend.

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