Saturday, March 01, 2008

Oh the places I'd go...


SUNDAY SCRIBBLINGS - #100 - TIME MACHINE


Time machines are a very seductive idea. The possibility of transcending the limitations of our bodies must be one of mankind's greatest fantasies. I was reminded of that fantastic book "The Time Traveller's Wife" and I imagine how exciting it must have been for the writer to work with that possibility. Going backwards and forwards in time as she pleased (through her character Henry, of course).

My first thought on the time travelling was: Oh I wouldn't want to visit the future! No, the future doesn't interest me. I'd want to go to so many places and times in the past. It'd be fabulous.

But then I began to analyse my motivations for this. We know many things about the past, through the documents, traces our ancestors left behind. Although we may be curious to experience those past Worlds, we know about the things that were good and the not so good. We know exactly what went wrong in the Roman Empire. We know the mistakes that Leaders made, we know the injusticies and the pain that billions went through before us. We couldn't exactly make any of those places better. And still I wanted to go back and see it with my own eyes. I feel an intense nostalgia for places I've never been to in my lifetime and heard only from documents and fiction.
As cliched as it sounds I'd want to go to San Francisco in the 60s, Chicago in the 20s, maybe bump into Shakespeare in the Elizabethan age in England, take a peek at Michael Angelo painting the Sistine Chapel, be a guest at Cleopatra's home in Egypt for the weekend, see how exciting it was for the portuguese navigators to arrive in India. Why not? I have a time machine.


But then I wondered? Why not the future? Is it because the future is completely unknown? Because it's probably a less safe choice (well, it depends. If you decide to travelled back to a Roman Arena, it might not be safe anyway)? Or do we secretly hope to still be a part of the future and so it's not so appealing? (I'll get there anyway) Suddenly travelling to the future seemed like a unique opportunity, as we can more of less travel to the past anytime (at least more easily, as we have data to help).

I realize how rich a prompt like this can be for creativity but today I simply wanted to raise these questions and contradict my first reaction. For more time travelling, click here.

27 comments:

susiej said...

It is such a rich prompt. The future, I think, would be the one place I think I'm not brave enough to conquer. I love the questions your post asked.

Lucy said...

you've raised such great questions. I am also leery of the future, I think you're right, it's the unknown. Can you imagine someone with a time machine in the 1700's coming to Ny in 2008? He would be terrified! great post!

Elspeth said...

Interesting perspective and questions. I never thought about it before, but I am not too keen on speeding ahead into the future either. The past, as you say, contains many things and people that we already know about through historical writings but have never met in person. I would want to meet Joan of Arc. Would be curious about the time of Jesus. Going to the past feels like a more selective and personal choice (what/where I would visit) ... but if visiting the future, I would want to pack the world into the time machine so that everyone could see and experience what we may be heading for if we continue the way we are ... global warming, crime, etc. Hopefully would inspire some present turn-around for humanity and major decision-making on the part of world leaders.

fearfullymade said...

We have a TV show in the UK called Dr Who. The lead character is a "Time Lord" and lives outside of human time, free to travel forward, backwards or into space. Anyway, I always enjoy the episodes in the future the most. I guess I just enjoy the possibilities, you can really allow your imagination to run wild, trying to dream up what the human race might become. For me at least, the past is more static. I think I'd only really want to go back to the past if I could take things like central heating and indoor plumbing with me!!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think the possibilities are endless if we could time travel... I think I'm happy to stay here in reality and save time travelling for my writing...

colleen said...

The futue IS scary. It seems like we're headed for destruction. I wonder if they thought that in the past?

SleekPelt said...

Nice post and topic, Devil Mood, it's one I think about often. I think the first novel that ever really tackled time travel was Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and let me tell you, it's a hell of a book. I've often thought about traveling to the past, wondering what good I would be. I suppose I could find work as a fortune teller, but even my history chops aren't what they should be, so I wouldn't be as effective as a person who really knows history, dates, etc. I know publishing, but the publishing I know involves Macs and PCs and collaborative software, digital images, etc. I wouldn't be able to help people with my skills much at all, I'm afraid. If I went way back in time, like to early civilization, I'd pretty much be worthless. If I went back to the '50s, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, I wouldn't have some kick-ass, unknown skill to wow everyone (his was skateboarding, you'll remember). I really don't know what I'd do with myself. Maybe buy a bunch of baseball cards in the hopes that I could take them back to the future with me?

The hero in Twain's novel, however, was in a very different situation than I. He was a foreman in an arms plant at the turn of the 1900s, a master engineer and manufacturer. So you can imagine what a man like that could do when transported back to King Arthur's England. For better or for worse, he could use science to beat the law of the land -- superstition -- and make a place for himself in that different time. Me? I'd like to think that I'd get by in a situation like that, but I don't think I'd have some profound influence on the people of the day. And maybe that would be for the best.

Traveling into the future? Hmm. If we could somehow find the technology in 2008 to travel into the future, I would have to think that time traveling wouldn't be a complete shock to the folks living in the future. Maybe you'd hop to 2030, only to find out there's a governmental agency whose job it is to track down and incarcerate anyone who tries to jump to their already-overpopulated era. Or maybe you'd land, walk into a store, and the owner would be like, "So when are you from? Here, you're going to want to buy this 'Welcome to 2030 kit.' Oh, and you should probably inject yourself with this vaccine, like, now. Otherwise you'll probably die within 24 hours."

Who knows?

SleekPelt said...

Oh, and I love the nod to Dr. Seuss.

Devil Mood said...

Susie: I understand that. I wouldn't conquer it myself, I'd probably go and hide in a bunker.

Lucy: Yes and with reason to be! Just imagine seeing a bus for the first time...;)

Elspeth: That could be good. It crossed my mind too - perhaps if we knew how things would be in the future, we could make some changes. I guess we just have to make them regardless of what we know. That's called faith, right? Thanks for the input.

Fearfullymade: hehe That's true. We live very comfortably in the present. Perhaps the future is more exciting and full of possibilites because we're naturally optimistic about it (?) and always imagine that things can get better.

Crafty: Yes, me too! I was speaking very metaphorically. I especially enjoy the creative liberty it provides.

Colleen: I have a feeling they did. But it's not bad that we think that way. Makes us more aware, right?

Sleekpelt: You made me think a lot too. I'd probably be very worthless indeed, in the past or future. I have been considering the time travellings as frugal but, in the long term, you're right, probably best to be low-key, or crucifiction and witch-hunting would be my destiny.
I especially liked your views on the future. Funny. Isn't it great that we're not kids anymore but can still imagine completely unreal fantasies?

That's an interesting title from Mark Twain.

sarala said...

Travel forward or backward? Good question. Both seem to be fraught with potential for trouble. Maybe for time travel we should stick to sci fi and Dr. Who.
I did like Time Traveler's Wife very much.

Niall said...

Time travel is a seductive concept..but if you had the chance to do something to avert a disaster..a crime...what would you do knowing that to do so would in all likel;yhood change the furute and perhaps result in all you know changing forever...But this brings up an even more challenging concept!...since the possibility of time travel is impossible...the concept of doing something now to create a better future IS possible. your previous post was part of that. Climate change is a certainty..and so is human suffereing at the hands of idiotic desp[otic fools..repressed regimes..selfishness.Now is a good opportunity to cosider we might change the future for the good!...preach over...good post Devil!!

Chloe said...

i only want to go a couple of days ahead, to see the lottery numbers.
joking, i agree with you, the future is scary. maybe if your time machine had two seats... xx

anthonynorth said...

This is the problem with the future. If we knew it, would want to live it, or would we get bored doing what is destined to be, without any free will, lest we change it?

Devil Mood said...

Sarala: I agree, we'd probably better stay here in the comfort of present.

Niall: I guess that's the only way we can act but a very important one nonetheless. Logically, this couldn't be any other way. Visiting the past or the future would probably be too much for us to handle.

Chloe: Wouldn't that be something? It seems simple, it's just two days ahead, why can't be travel there? :)

Anthony: True! I never knew time-travelling could raise so many issues. That could be another reason for travelling to the future not appealing to me.

Amarettogirl said...

Its always good to analyze your thoughts and preconceived notions through writing. I really liked this post, especially where you list the detailed places (cleopatra's room) in history you would want to go. :-)

Ps said...

Hey--this post of yours made me think.Given a choice it is past that i too would like to visit.It may not be so much the fear of unknown that makes us hesitant to visit the future..Maybe it is because visiting the future takes away an important driving force--Hope.

Violet said...

I'd travel to the fifties or sixties. In san francisco.
I'm not too curious about the future either.
I'm curious about lots of civilizations in the past, the problem is it problably wasn't very confortable to live then unless u were extremely rich.
people didn't bathe... and didn't have modern medicine, or tv. =P not to mention internet. hehe
the one invention i'd really like to experience in the future would be teletransport.Beam me up Scotty.

Devil Mood said...

Amarettogirl: Thanks. That was the creative part, more enjoyable no doubt :)

PS: But what if the future gave you more hope, instead of taking it away? I think I've discovered your inner pessimistic ;)

Violet: That would be very uncomfortable for me too, that's why I like to think of these travellings more like spiritual ones, rather than physical ;)

fb said...

My initial thought was I'd go back to the times where I didn't say what I meant to certain girls or should have kissed them and see what would have happened...or would I still freeze?

As to the future I would be interested to see what or where I would have ended up doing.

Its strange but being a fly on the wall or witness to a great historical moment seems less interesting than my own history and past...

Does that just make me a selfish bastard?

Julie Schuler said...

I think I agree somewhat with fb, travelling to the past is "vanity travelling", adding layers to everything that history and literature has animated in one's own imagination. The future is the utterly unknown, and it's hard to feel any sort of connection to it.

missalister said...

I have to admit when I saw that the SS prompt was “time machine” I rolled my eyes and mentally flailed about in a mini-tantrum refusing to be a part of such an overused concept. But as a whole it turned out well enough. You certainly did well. Your mention of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” got me to check out a review of it and I came away from that thinking What a neat treatment to the old theme! So I guess that proves it’s not entirely overused and many who commented here agree. Again I’m late to the party and found two particularly keen comments on two key issues we can forget in relation to the concept of time travel: niall’s point that if we go back and alter even just one thing, everything going forward will be different, to include the place in time we left; and anthonynorth’s point that knowing the future might make us not want to continue, or if we changed even one just one thing... Anyway, I loved how you let your thoughts transition, also as amarettogirl mentioned. It’s a closer feeling of being along with you on your mental trip as you write. :-)

Devil Mood said...

FB: Yes, it does! haha I guess I understand, there are many things about our past that we'll never know in this "regular way of leaving". But I wouldn't want to do that - imagine the regret it could give you. I'd rather be that fly in the wall, probably because I'm really snoopy.

Julie: Yes, that's true. The past is part of our collective and individual fantasy and that is more appealing than the unknown.

Missalister: You're not late to the party. lol I really recommend reading that book, it's wonderful.
Even though time-travelling is unreal, the author's approach is very realistic.
Glad you enjoyed the post and comments and that you took the time to read everything :)

Mansi Trivedi said...

Ummm I'd like one too please.
Love the thought.

Miss Iyer said...

Aah! Rome! How I'd love to go there. Whether in the past, or the present, or the future :D

Devil Mood said...

Mansi: Great!Thanks for visiting!

Miss Iyer: You love Rome? I was just saying yesterday how so many people have a fascination with Italy and Rome, be it the past or the present one.

Holy Chaos said...

intersting thoughts. my daughter would defininetly go back in time to Egypt.

Honestly, I would like to be in the
Middle East-Israel when Jesus walked the earth.

Devil Mood said...

Holychaos: That would be something! Whatever your religion, Jesus must have been quite an individual :)