A single thought now plagues me.
It has kept me from sleep for hours, and has more than proven its formidable strength as the hypothetical situation to end all. I’ve just finished the movie “Altitude”. It’s a production by Darclight studios and in comparison with the other movies produced by that studio is a revelation. The movie centers around the flight of a rookie pilot with her four friends. I promise not to spoil any plot, but three of the major themes of the movie are “regret”, “redemption”, and the process of “causality”.
Therefore, because of the potent nature of such a moving film, it has brought to me the idea that perhaps the greatest power that could ever be at one’s disposal would be the power to manipulate space and time. This power of course would allow you to govern actions as you see fit, and as you would be from the distant future you would have the distinct advantage of knowing of the events of the past through the eye-witness accounts and associated press material related to the event in our age of information. I’m undoubtedly sure most of you reading are more than familiar with the popularity of the “time-travelling” scenario used in such movies as “Back To The Future”, “The Butterfly Effect”, “12 Monkeys”, “The Terminator”, and of course the ever popular “Donnie Darko”. Their use of time control made for some of the thickest plots in history and made endless possibilities unfold before their eyes, (and yours of course).
However, if you’re a fan of the “time travel” scenario then clearly you’re also familiar with stories that point out the dangers of tampering with the past. The famous short story “A Sound of Thunder” is usually the first story to cross people’s minds when they think of the infamous “time paradox”. The idea of altering something means that the original flow of time has since been changed and now must follow a completely separate course because of the single different action taken by an individual. Unconsciously, humans fail to realize that even the slightest subtle alteration to an event could potentially trigger an alternate reality that they may or may not favor when compared to their current setting.
It is a deviously tempting double-edged sword. The ability to change one’s past is without a doubt one of the most sought-after hypothetical powers known to mankind. Since the human race has the ability to feel such emotions as regret or remorse, there is no doubt that some people would kill for the power; of course by doing so they would need to go back to their past and NOT kill the person, thereby salvaging their morality and eliminating their time altering power at the same time. (Yeah, I just created my own paradox)
Many times have I been lost in aimless thought with various people over just such a concept. The trivial, and at the same time idealistic nature of such a thought is so grand that sometimes by the end of the conversation it becomes a “1-up” list between both parties on who can accomplish the more noble feat of time alteration. The thought of complexity and lack of resources never occurs to most people when thinking of things they “would’ve stopped” or desire to. Often the wishful thinking forces people to regret actions more than they usually would because of how simple the task would’ve been to dodge the train wreck they endured earlier in life.
Consider this. If time travel were possible, the natural disasters we could’ve forecasted would potentially save countless lives and prevent the loss of so many civilizations. With the ability to change time, we could provide antibiotics, and a vaccine that would single-handedly stop epidemic from reaching the far corners of the Earth. We could prevent certain wars from happening and save a billion lives from ending in a pointless war fought over imperialistic gain, religion, or avarice. We could even go back and deliver the formula for an alternate fuel source, thereby preventing the ridiculous amount of irreversible damage that our population has done in the 20th century, let alone the stretch of time that our race has existed.
Think harder now. The Egyptian/Syrian earthquake of 1201, the Bubonic plague, Shansi earthquake of 1556, the millions of native American tribes lost to disease by European settlers, the millions lost to famine in India during the summer of 1769, the Volcanic eruption in Iceland, the earthquake in Haiti, Ireland’s potato famine, the 1876-1879 Chinese drought, the WWI Influenza epidemic that claimed 30 million lives, the tsunami in Japan, hurricane Katrina, the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, the Spanish Inquisition, the crusades, the Mongol invasion, the Bolshevik revolution, the holocaust, president Kennedy’s assassination, Stalin’s mass executions, the Cambodian killing fields, WWI, WWII, the Korean war, The Vietnam war, The Civil War, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Lincoln’s assassination, Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 1919 Amirtsar massacre, the Iran Contra massacres, Mao’s cultural revolution, The Tienanmen square massacre, the rape of Lebanon, the Maalot and Kiryat Shemona massacre of school-children, the current war in the middle east, the 1972 Munich Olympic games, the 9/11 attacks, the Oklahoma city bombings, and the current perpetual genocide of innocents in the heart of Africa.
All of this shit could possibly be stopped if someone went back in time and offered a different solution or warned the proper authorities before it happened. With the right amount of weapons and proper timing, many disasters could be stopped before they happened. The good that could come of time manipulation is on an insurmountable scale.
But would we learn anything? I’m sure by this point you’ve considered your own past. I’m more than sure by now you’ve recounted your own mistakes and quite possibly a few actions you would more than care to go back and press the “undo” button on. The sheer amount of grief, injury, and embarrassment you could save yourself just by taking a slight step backwards is by far the most potent force any human could be inclined to engage in. But would you gain any knowledge? A person’s past experiences are quite possibly the most important and definite ways for them to learn and grow through life. Your errors and failures of judgment have brought you to this moment, and because of it you have learned. You know now that it’s not good to steal. You know violence is wrong, and deceit is a facade not worth having. You’ve learned proper manners, and you’ve learned to function correctly in society by years of getting things wrong and correcting your mistakes. It’s the most common action taken by humans and is what allows us to stand out from the animal kingdom. Our ability to judge a situation accordingly out of logic and reason propels us forward in time.
So how would you do it? Would you step backwards, and correct the atrocities done to you in your past? Would you go back and correct your mistakes so that you don’t have to live with them? Would you bring light to a situation and spare yourself a potential lesson? Could you pull the switch on time and change the flow?
…or would you observe? Would you recognize that an alternate world is not what you want and leave the past as is? Do you think that you’ve learned from your past, and would keep all the horrible things in it; accepting regret knowing you’ve taken virtues from mishap and continue down the path you’ve already made for yourself? I want to hear it, so let me know.
Me personally, I refuse to go back now. The world has to learn the hard way, and so do I. I don’t want anything changed, because if I save myself from a mistake I’ll just end up making it again further down the line. The harsh lessons learned have spawned new ideas and have allowed me to better myself through them. Without “where I’ve been”, there would be no “where I’m going”, and my life would be a constant cycle of having to go back and correct the same mistakes in a perpetual circle of disaster.
As the powerful song “Shogun” by Trivium dictates,
The pulse is now quickening
Softly, it’s painstaking
Look within to calm the storm
Raging inside the formThere’s no turning backFor I’m witness to the changingTake all you have brought to sacrifice
For you will lose much more
If you succeed in this battle
You still will lose so much more