I am fascinated with the concepts of time travel, parallel universes and the Butterfly Effect. Fortunately for me, there are several TV shows today that deal with these things. One is Timeless and another is The Flash. The Flash is a Marvel comic based series in which the hero can run so fast that he can bend time. He can move both forward and backwards in time. Timeless follows a government team of time travelers who have to keep going back in time to prevent the ‘bad guy’ from messing with major past events and drastically changing the timeline.

In both of these shows, each trip back in time results in an altered present. In each, a seemingly random individual who is important to one of the main characters, is either dead in the present or was never born and no longer exists in the present timeline.

This brings up the Butterfly Effect, a theory popular with time travel enthusiasts. The theory, mostly used in science, states that a small change can result in a large, unrelated change down the road. In everyday life, this means that unimportant decisions, like whether to go out to dinner or eat in, can lead to very different ‘storylines’ in your life.

There is both a movie and a play that depicts the parallel universes created by a minor life decision. The movie is “Sliding Doors” from 1998 and stars Gwyneth Paltrow.

It tracks the different careers and love lives that the heroine would have if she a) catches a particular subway train or b) misses the train. For example, if she catches the train, she also gets home in time to catch her boyfriend in bed with another woman. If she misses the train, she also misses this tryst. Her life takes very different paths depending on that fluke of timing.


The play was a musical called “If/Then,” starring Idina Menzel. The show follows the heroine’s parallel lives if she either chooses to go to lunch with friend ‘A’ or if she chooses to go to a play with friend ‘B’ instead.

Interestingly, in both the movie and the play, the heroine ends up with the same ‘love of her life,’ just at different times in her life. Her career paths diverge but I think most people like to believe that some people are ‘destined’ to be together.

The Jewish concept of ‘Beshert’ says that every soul is a half soul and that there is another person in the world who is their perfect ‘other half’. So in time travel shows, many aspects of life are allowed to be affected by chance. But we don’t seem to want to accept that chance can also change the big things in life, like true love.

TimeTravelSome time travel writers have a different theory. They talk about the fact that the past ‘resists’ change. Rather than believing in the Butterfly Effect as it relates to time travel, many believe that at least the major events in history are more predestined and less susceptible to change.

It might seem easy to keep a major past event from happening, especially if small changes in the timeline can eventually result in big ones. But time travel writers feel events, like WWI, the assassination of JFK, or the sinking of the Titanic, will always find a way to happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

You might want to read Stephen King’s brilliant book “11/22/63” about attempting to go back in time to prevent the JFK assassination. It was also made into a mini series, but the book is much better.

I guess it is easier to accept the idea that relatively small things, like the details of an individual’s life, are changeable and not ‘meant to be.’ Maybe this is because on a small-scale, cause and effect is more linear and knowable. On the other hand, historians are still arguing about the multiple and interrelated causes of the Civil War.

delorean time machineMy grandfather was hit by a truck and killed when he stepped off a curb too soon at the age of 88. I used to obsess about what led him to that exact spot at that exact time. I used to imagine the tiny things he could have done differently that would have gotten him to that spot even a second earlier or later.

For about a year after that, I would imagine each time I reached a curb, that it could be my last moment on earth — if the stars were so aligned. Maybe this is the root of my love for some of these theories.

Categories: Books, Humor, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel, Supernatural

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24 replies

  1. It is a fascinating concept. Life is full of so many “what if?” moments. What if my mother had married someone else? She might have had daughters but they would not be my sister and me. What if we had not emigrated to Australia? I’d be dealing with Brexit right now instead of bushfires. The government would be about the same though. What if David and I had not moved to Tasmania?
    I wonder if it is true that the past resists change? Maybe you could prevent World War II or Trump becoming President but the conditions that forced those events might just bubble over somewhere else into a different but equally devastating war and a different but equally horrible president. Something to think about.


  2. I like the idea of ‘Beshert’. I also like to think that I have been with my better half for all these years, Ellin.

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    • I also love the concept of Beshert, but I’ve also seen many people have more than one ‘love of their life’. This happens either by losing one by death and finding someone else, or by the passage of time, when you change and end up with a new life, with someone other than the first ‘love of your life’.

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  3. The other night, Garry and I watched a movie we had somehow previously missed. From 2003, “Kate & Leopold” is a time-travel themed movie starring Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan AND it has a happy ending. We went to bed smiling. No gore, no murders, no violence. Lots of comparisons of the 1800s with “now” and, of course, love across the centuries. You’d like it. I kind of loved it.

    It’s playing on Netflix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditto on “Kate and Leopold”, Spike. Nice find. I’m ready to watch it again. I’m a sucker for time travel love stories with HAPPY endings. We should watch “Somewhere In Time” and “Time After Time” again.

      Agree about ‘feel good’ films sans gore, violence and senseless nudity. Given the state of our nation and our national pastime, we needed “Kate And Leopold”. Didn’t it have a few seconds of “Moon River” in it? Nice theft.

      Pondering time travel: I used to think I’d love to be back in the old west. Ya know where I’m going with this. A man of color rides into town. Nice horse, clothing and wearing two guns. You can see the women, kids and cattle running for their lives. All the alkies line up outside the town saloon staring at the stranger, whispering to one another as they gulp their cheap hooch. The saloon gals stare in fascination, their big boobs rising in anticipation over their wonder bras. The sheriff dashes in to check his wanted posters, the colored section. The town bully sullenly sniffs, sniffs his sniffin’ glue for some courage. The punk wannabee young gun satisfies himself in an alley – anticipating a showdown with the stranger. The punk’s tight pants darkening noticeably as he satisfies himself with a loud “Yes!!”
      The prim school teacher smiles, a warm inviting smile, suggesting that all are welcome in her classroom.
      The Choir in the old church is singing “Nearer My God To Thee”.

      The colored gunslinger just keeps riding through main street, past the chinese laundry and chop suey joint and slowly, slowly rides out of town.

      A small boy runs after the stranger, yelling “Come back, Stranger! Come back! We want you! We need you! Come back, please! We’re all ready for a lynching! Come back, Mister!”

      The stranger keeps riding, softling humming “Kumbaya” as his profile disappears in the dust that rises over the horizon.


    • Marilyn – thanks for the movie tip. It sounds great.


  4. Interesting post, Ellin. I also love the concept of time travel used in books, stories, and shows. Neat how you snuck in that plaque about Jacob Von Hogflume:)

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  5. In the early 1950s, Ray Bradbury created the butterfly effect in time travel with the short story,The Sound of Thunder, though reading it, a meteorologist coined the term in the 1960s. I wonder if he read Bradbury?

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    • Good question. I think we all read some of his short stories randomly. They were everywhere, in all the books of short stories we read. When I finally got into sci-fi a few years later, I discovered I had read more of it than I thought.

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    • I didn’t realize that the Butterfly Efect was such a recent concept. I assumed it went way back to the early philosophers.

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  6. Time travel is a fascinating subject. But even if it were possible, the repercussions of changing something in the past would be too much!

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