TO DO (OVER) OR NOT TO DO (OVER) – THAT IS THE QUESTION

Fandango’s Provocative Question #162

Get that butterfly out of mothballs! Time to have an effect!

If you have read or thought about time travel, you know you can’t change the past. Depending on the book you read, either you can’t because the results are inevitably unexpected and possibly tragic, or because History herself will stop you. She is the guardian of time and she doesn’t tolerate meddlers.

If you could have a second chance at just one event in your life, what would you choose? What would you do differently? How do you think your life would be different now?

Life is complicated. Too complicated. It’s not that I haven’t made errors I would have liked to correct, but in my life and no doubt in yours, the choices we made — good, bad, or indifferent — always changed our life. Everything we did — especially failures which often have a more profound affect on human lives than contentment or happiness — altered our direction in an obvious or subtle way.

Even the most subtle change in your life path will cause it to fork and move you in a slightly (or hugely) other direction. Unless you hate your life and figure a toss of the dice will surely come up seven or eleven, remember it might come up snake eyes. Ouch.

You can’t undo the past. Not historically, not personally. There is no yesterday. There is only now and a future. I would not — could not — change anything in my life because to change one thing might change everything.

On the other hand, if I could really change human history in a really big way, I might be willing to seriously tweak human evolution. Give Neanderthals the reproductive edge and let homo sapiens languish and (with a little luck) disappear. Maybe that would have produced a gentler, kinder world than this nightmare in which we have fallen. I’m not by any means the first person who has thought of this. Douglas Adams got there long before me and many science fiction writers have addressed it.

I read a lot of time travel books. They are my all time favorite type of science fiction, probably because of the impossibility of it. It makes my brain fold up like an origami bird. I greatly enjoy having my brain twisted.

But personally? I like who I am and who I am with. I wish we had more money and I wish my health was more substantial, but I think on the happiness to misery scale, we’re doing fine.

Who knows how it would have turned out if I changed something? I not much of a gambler. I never expect to win the roll of the dice.



Categories: #FPQ, Anecdote, History, Life, Provocative Questions, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel

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14 replies

  1. I should have married Heather.

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  2. Beautifully written, Marilyn. Including your comments. And it was fun to see how you like your brain getting twisted around with twisty fiction. Whether with time or philosophy, I enjoy it, too (particularly in movies and series these days more than reading unless in non-fiction for the most part but not exclusively); I find that relaxing plus stimulating. My “partner” (ex-husband) likes that kind of thing, as well (so that works), while he finds it to be work (as he puts it) and not in a problematic way other than to the extent he has to take breaks when he’d kinda rather not except that he also likes lots of other shows and some music videos.

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    • It sounds like the husband (ex and current) have much in common. Garry could just watch old movies, cop shows, and baseball and be a happy camper — mostly. I’m always poking at him to try new things which, at 80, isn’t always easy. But he needs a mental poke to keep him mentally moving.

      I used to be more of a reader, but now it’s almost entirely audio books except for blogs — and I have a limit to how many I can read in a day and still do something else. Right now, though, my right wrist is a total disaster and I can’t do much of anything until it stops hurting quite so much.

      I got addicted to audiobooks while i was working. I had some incredibly (insanely) long commutes and the books made it not only bearable, but often the best part of my day. After I retired, I was STILL addicted to audiobooks. And now, my eyes are permanently strained anyway. I think I finally did what my mother warned me about: I read myself blind. Not really blind, but i can’t focus on a lot of print for very long anymore.

      I read a lot of history and biographies (auto and other) and then a flip around and read Jodi Taylor (time travel with a great sense of humor) — then I lurch into a crime novel or two, then back to sliding through time warps. A lot of the time travel books are really history in disguise anyway. What better way to get you to be involved in something historical than drop you through a “a magic doorway” or something of that kind (no technical explanation required if it’s just a hole in the time-space continuum, right?). Connie Willis did a series of those including two on the period of time when England and especially London was being bombed — “Blackout” and “All Clear.” Some of the best history I’ve read was very thinly disguised as science fiction.

      Oh, I could talk about books all day and all night and all month. I am so hooked on the magic of books. I’m horrified at how many young people don’t read and wonder what they will think about in the years to come without the stimulation of reading.

      It’s late. i need to drag my aging butt to bed! Thanks for writing. You got me thinking about books. So I think I’ll listen a while before I sleep.

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  3. There were five or six times in my life when I knew I was making potentially life changing decisions. I always thought it would be interesting (or maybe horrifying) if I could see what my life would have been had I chosen a different path.

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    • Me too. But I don’t obsess over it. It’s more a matter of curiosity.

      Some stuff that changed my life was really tiny stuff, but like that butterfly, the results were huge. A heavy rainstorm in Jerusalem, for example. The really big decisions make us consciously aware that we are changing our life — but those little, unplanned events that aren’t even in our control change our lives even more and it may take a lifetime to realize the impact.

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  4. I said basically the same thing sans the scientific and global thinking. I, too, enjoy time travel as a unrealistic concept/tool for writers and film makers to play with…I think I’d hate it if someone actually unraveled the time conundrum and figured out how. It would be manipulated and used for evil ends IMO because of the quality of humans that are now in our frame of reality on the time scale. Excellent art work, and I agree about the neanderthals. Perhaps they would have added a dollop of compassion to our mix. Great post! 🙂

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    • There’s a CBC (Canadian) series called Murdoch’s Mysteries. It has been running on some streaming network or other for maybe 15 year. They FINALLY have a new season. So last night, the story was about a supposed (never happened, but the show is also something of a fantasy where everything was invented by someone in Ontario, Canada) event in which all the great inventors of around 1910 (give or take a decade or three) come for an event to discuss the future of mankind. Everyone who was anyone was there — Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Tesla, Bell, Marie Curie — I can’t remember all of them, but it was composed of all the people who invented pretty much all the things we use now in our daily lives. One evil genius (a woman) kidnaps most of them and says they have to create the most powerful weapon in the world so that she (and they) can become unbelievably rich.

      Lots of people talking about how the future would be so much better because of the great inventions they were making and of course, we all know that isn’t what happened — not even a tiny little bit. So much of the horrors of the modern world were actually invented by people who believed they were helping make our lives better, even perfect.

      I do not believe humans are capable of handling anything of value without weaponizing it. As a whole, are NOT basically good. Oh, some of us are. We are also the people who are not in power and never would be because turning things into killing machines never ever occurs to us.

      Why WHY has the dark side of humanity become the only side to dominate our world? There are good people, but we are never in charge. Is it because power isn’t our “thing”? Because don’t seek power and so don’t have it?

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  5. I agree Marilyn. I wouldn’t want to change my life either. Everything is related. If mum hadn’t decided to move to Australia to join her family, I wouldn’t have met David. If I hadn’t left the railways we probably would not have moved to Tasmania. You can’t unscramble eggs.

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    • Yup. If I hadn’t gone to Israel and married the ABSOLUTELY wrong guy, Garry and I probably would never have gotten back together — and I would have had an entirely different career. Actually, I can’t even imagine how differently my life would have turned out. If it hadn’t poured rain in the middle of March I wouldn’t have met the idiot I married, but I wouldn’t have become the writer I became AND I couldn’t have become even better after coming back. Actually, had I met a different person, I might not have even come back. Our lives are an intricate set of tiny threads, all woven from the things we do — or decide not to do. Things we choose to do, things we are required to do.

      Sometimes I wonder just HOW different it might have been, but I can’t. It’s far too complicated.

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      • I wonder too but I’ve had a good life and I don’t regret the way it has turned out. It’s an impossible question really. If things had happened differently it might have turned out better, or worse or maybe the end result would be the same. Who knows?

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