It’s such a bright shiny day. I wonder how many more of these we will have before the sullen skies of November arrive or worse, the bright white skies that presage the coming snow. I’m entirely unready. We haven’t had time to get the leaves up off the back deck yet. I get sad thinking about the end of Autumn. It’s been a while since winter has been a glad time for us. The prospect of icy walkways, trying to make my way to the top of the driveway on slippery surfaces is something to dread, not welcome. Visions of broken hips are stalking demons waiting for me to make a mistake. I have trouble walking up the driveway to get to the mail on a bright, clear day. Once the snow comes, it’s over until spring.
As these last weeks of a golden season are with us, I embrace them. Who knows what my world will be like by the time the ice and snow recede? Life is not predictable, not even in the simplest, most fundamental ways. Everything is up for grabs. But knowing what the future might hold seems to me worse. Much worse. Who would have the strength to deal with the present if we simultaneously saw the end? Wouldn’t we waste our lives trying to avoid the end and lose our joy in the present? As long as we don’t have foreknowledge, we can look at the good stuff we have and ignore the rest. Which is why time travel is deliciously mind-bending. It’s also why most time travel stories involve going back rather than forwards in time.
The past is known, the outcome written, but the future, in theory, having not yet happened, is labile, alterable by our actions in the now. Presumably we had no consciousness of time before we were born, or if we did, we don’t retain those memories. If we could see where life would take us before being born, would we choose to be born? Or would life and the future be so terrifying that we would opt for remaining wherever our spirits wait in the intervals between life and life?
I occasionally catch glimpses of the future. Never my future. Visions of my future are always a combination of hope, fear and supposition. I do sometimes see things about other people. I have no control over this, so when they pop unwelcome into my psyche, I’m torn between sounding like an airhead trying to warn someone, or shutting up and hoping it was not a real vision. Sometimes I see things but don’t recognize the people. What is the point of visions of people I don’t know and can’t help? That makes no sense at all. I only know I saw truly if it shows up on the news and I recognize the faces. Clearly such visions are not sent — if indeed they are sent and not just somehow “picked up” randomly — with any intent to change the outcome. Add one more item to the long list of things I will never understand.
Are we powerless to change the future? Is the future already written and unchangeable? I know people have strong opinions about this and seem to divide fairly evenly into two distinct, opposing camps.
The predestination group believes that everything is written and although we have small choices we can make about how we live our lives, we can only alter it in minor ways. Ultimately, we wind up where we were supposed to be, no matter what we do. A friend of mine who I used to hang with in Tel Aviv had an extraordinary ability to predict the future. Someone sent me to her and we discovered that we were about to become friends the moment we met. She asked me a couple of questions then asked me “Why are you here? You can see as well as I can.”
I didn’t even bother to ask her how she knew that. If you know, you know. “We don’t see our own future rightly, you know that. Other people we see, but ourselves? We see what we want to see or what we are afraid might be, but never accurately.”
She nodded and asked me to take a look at her future and we’d call it even, which I did and then we settled down to having tea and talking about predictive techniques. For anyone who’s into this sort of thing, she worked entirely with the movements of Jupiter and Saturn and how they interact with the personal planets and houses. I tend to be more holistic, but that’s because I don’t want to see details. I certainly don’t want to see things like upcoming deaths. Yuk. Who needs that stuff? I asked her if she believed that the future was written and what about free will?
This was the answer: “We are born and we are put into a room. There is furniture in that room. We can choose to sit on the sofa, or one of the chairs. We can invite a few people to come and share our room, but we cannot leave it. That is our room and our choices are limited.” Predestination, in her view, was virtually complete.
The other group are those, like me, who prefer to believe that the choices we make now will change the outcome. This doesn’t mean that I’m right, but I prefer to believe what we do makes a difference. If I’m wrong, it won’t matter anyway.
I am by no means the first nor last person who will brood on this, write about this, wonder about it. Meanwhile, I’m happy enough to not know. Not knowing leaves surprises and some of them may be happy. Others will be sad. We watched a documentary last night about Ethel Kennedy and when she was asked, by her youngest child who was producing the documentary, about the losses and traumas of her life, she said (and this isn’t a quote, but a paraphrase): “No one gets a free ride. We all suffer losses. We lose friends and loved ones. There’s no free ticket. You just do what you can, what you have to do.”
I don’t need to see any of what might be heading my way. I’ll deal with what comes when it gets here. The present is entirely sufficient.
- ‘Ethel’ review: Extraordinary Kennedy (sfgate.com)
- HBO documentary ‘Ethel’ tells Kennedy story from the inside (upi.com)
- Time for Time Travel Talk (drscifi.com)
- Time Traveler (twominutesofgrace.wordpress.com)
- Looper Might Be the Best Time Travel Movie Ever [Looper] (kotaku.com)
- ‘Looper’-like Time Travel Possible? Scientists Say Maybe (livescience.com)
- Flux Capacitor™ – Pocket Paradox, LLC (itunes.apple.com)
- Looper (sightsandsoundz.com)
- Blog Tour: Across The Winds of Time – A Review (tiensblurb.wordpress.com)