Indecision… or maybe not?

September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Give me a time machine, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

For one, the mind-boggling — and calamitous — potential repercussions of time travel such as those raised by Lewis Padgett in “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” Ray Bradbury in “A Sound of Thunder,” and William Tenn in “The Brooklyn Project” would give me serious qualms about messing around with time.  Sure, there’s a chance that a journey in the fourth dimension would turn out perfectly fine, but there’s also a chance that it wouldn’t.  Personally, I’m pretty happy with my life and I’m not about to put it on the line for a glorified vacation.

Even if I knew said time machine would return me home safe and sound to a home the same as I left it, I would not know where to go.  Or rather, I would not know where to go first.  Extensive research (i.e., ten minutes of web-surfing) indicates that pretty much everybody who has ever entertained the notion of time travel has at least a cursory “list” of people they would meet and places they would go, and I’m no different.  Rather, as an avid student of history and a curious guy in general, the chance to visit any time and any place would be especially overwhelming.  Where would I begin? By spending some time with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in Classical Greece?  Observing the construction of the Great Wall of China under the Qin dynasty?  Exploring the Mediterranean during the pax romana?  Tagging along with Joan of Arc in medieval France?  Or maybe America’s Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War and the shaping of our country?  The list goes on…

And that’s just human civilization!  Meet a caveman to boost my ego?  Check.  Visit the dinosaurs?  Cliché, but cool nonetheless.  Front-row seats for the Big Bang?  Heck yes.

In sum, I could spend an eternity experiencing history for myself.  So in order to avoid this temptation altogether, I think I would opt for a single jump in the opposite direction.  Far enough in the future for considerable change, but no so far as to find myself in a world I could not recognize.  Or in other words, just far enough to check up on mankind, assuming it (hopefully) still exists.  Have we solved the issues of 2012?  Is the world economy healthy?  Do people across the globe live with the reassuring guarantee of protection of basic human rights?  Do countries coexist peacefully, sorting out their differences with mutual respect and goodwill?  Has humanity found a way to thrive while serving as stewards of a thriving planet?  All in all, where have we succeeded and where have we not?

I’m all about free will, so one glimpse into the future would be enough for me; I would bring this snapshot back to my time and use it as a sustained source of motivation to, with any luck, effect even just a tiny positive change in this future.  Because although I love studying the past and pondering the future, at the end of the day, I want to live in the present.



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