Marty McFly and Neo Go on a Hot Date
Bet that caught your attention!
During some social time at a trade show recently – I know, again! – a client threw out one of those philosophical, fun “What if?” questions: What if you could use a time machine to travel either forward or backward in time? Which direction would you choose, what year would you go to, and why?
Of course, my overanalytical mind had a field day with this one. Here’s my conclusion.
I can see the virtues of both returning to the past and visiting the future. The thought of going back and correcting my past mistakes, perhaps seizing opportunities I was too naïve/shy/intimidated/etc. to pursue before I became the person I am today is all very tempting, though I was informed by my business pal that these things aren’t allowed in the scenario – which really made me wonder what the hizzy the point of the proposition was in the first place, actually, because then why bother going back at all? Wasn’t it bad enough the first time around? Then again, I suppose if you were one of those people who peaked in high school, you’d probably want to just go back and witness your glory days. I wasn’t one of those people, though, thankfully, so I guess I don’t really see the point of going back to the past unless I could change it.
But the more I thought about the possibility of going back and changing things in my past, the more I realized that no matter how shizzy some of my life experiences were – and some indeed were quite that – I’m not sure I could’ve really become the person I am today without enduring the worst my life has delivered me thus far. Is this sounding like the trite, overdone plot of some movie that’s out there already? Perhaps it is, but nevertheless, this is what I have to assume would be the case had I not experienced everything I’ve lived through so far – good and bad. If there was some guarantee I could become the person I am today – the person I like to be and am proud to be – without going through everything I have endured, then perhaps there would be some things I would choose to redo or strike from the record entirely.
I also find it interesting that I identify more with the challenging life experiences I’ve faced versus the ones that have brought me joy. Am I a masochist? Mayhaps so. I’m not sure what it is about adversity that I feel is so powerful, but I do have to say that there’s something inside me that really does believe – correctly or falsely – that these types of experiences are what truly show us who we are, who we can be, our true potential. But they really suck testes to be in in those moments/months/years. This is why so many stay comfortable in less than they deserve, less than they can do and be. Granted, it’s not like I’m some kind of prolific genius taking on the world, but now that my life is a lot saner, healthier, and happier (and most importantly, I know how to keep it that way), I find that I can take on more. I saw an inspirational speaker, John O’Leary, while at this conference who posed one major question to remember, to ask yourself each day: “What more can I do?” Well, I’m a writer, Jim, not a doctor, so I won’t be curing cancer, but I can do more than I have done in the past, more than I did yesterday, more for myself and the world around me. I intend to do this into the future.
Which brings us to this whole “time travel into the future” portion of the proposition. I could see some benefit of going into the future, seeing what life is like for people there. As a feminist, I’m particularly interested in seeing what kind of progress might be made 10, 100, 1,000 years down the line for womankind both in the U.S. and abroad – you know, presuming the Mayans are wrong about all that apocalypse stuff. Arguably, I wouldn’t have the urge to change anything; I figure if I went far enough in the future, perhaps a utopia of sorts, a heaven on earth, would be there waiting for me – like Belinda Carlisle’s vision, except less ‘80s.
But we are human. Could there really be such a thing as a utopia in this earthly form? And how far into the future would it be, if possible, for that to be the case? Would it be such a culture shock, a person like me from a time like this couldn’t possibly comprehend or adjust to it? These are philosophical debates unto themselves, of course, and ones I’ll have to save for another day. Not to mention the fact that this mother hen is not the kind to not find some way to “improve” things; I put that word in quotes because, of course, improvement would be solely defined by me from my limited and selfish perspective, and so likely wouldn’t guarantee improvement from any other perspective – a whole other philosophical debate.
But let’s presume for a moment the future was great, or at the very least, significantly better than things are today. Who would want to go back to the time they were originally from? (That’s another rule, my client informed me; you don’t get to stay in that past or future moment; you only get to visit. So many rules with this hypothetical scenario!) And if it wasn’t – if things were even worse than they are now, and people were living like dogs in underground bubbles and tunnels, hiding from artificial intelligence with Keanu Reeves, who would want to live with that knowledge? I mean, sure, you’d be grateful to come back to things as they are today, but you’d have to assume that the hard fighting so many did for so long for all the great causes failed epically. It’s enough to make a person want to take the blue pill – filled with cyanide.
At the end of the conversation, it was concluded among us that it would probably be best for a person like me to go neither forward nor back. An unsatisfying answer? Maybe. But it gave me a different sort of appreciation for this time I was born in, the life I’m living now. It also made me curious about what others would choose. So what would you do, dear readers? Forward or back?