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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On Time Travel (Possible Spoilers)

In honor of Back to the Future day, I've decided to reflect on time travel.
What would it be like to go back or forward in time? 
Besides Back to the Future, this phenomenon has been explored in several movies, books and tv shows. 
The idea that time is a fragile line that should not be altered is the theme of the short story "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury. 

In the story, a hunter named Eckles goes back in time to hunt a dinosaur, and he changes the time stream with one action that snowballs into a catastrophic future. 
It is possible that "the butterfly effect" theory came from a moment in the story where Eckles steps on a butterfly, and the time he once knew becomes something completely different. 

Harry Potter had an interesting take on the consequences of time travel, and what rules should be followed for a person (or wizard) to stay sane. He was allowed to go back in time to save lives, as long as he stayed out of sight.  
But he wouldn't have been alive if he hadn't gone back in time. 
In the third book, Harry saves himself, believing that he was saved by someone else. In the time stream, because Harry didn't see who saved him, he was protected from the bizarre event of meeting another version of himself. 

Sailor Moon also does this when she goes to the future, and saves not only her future self, but her future child. Naoko breaks all the rules when her future and present self speak, but they don't talk for long. Usagi's daughter, however, constantly talks of her life in the future while she is in the past, and she possibly influences the events that she believes happend just by speaking them. 

This idea was also explored in Meet the Robinsons, but with a positive effect. Because Lewis sees his future, and meets his future self, he is able to let go of his doubt and stop living in the past. Because Lewis saw how bright his future was, and how easily he could influence it, he started his journey to the future by moving forward instead of looking back. 

Doctor Who plays with time travel constantly, but there are rules that the doctor must follow in order to keep time from changing too drastically. There are always consequences to the Doctor's actions. 
Here's a fun theory they played with in a recent episode: 

That's the appeal of the show, and the character of the Doctor. He can go anywhere, and he has the power to do anything along the timestream, as long as he doesn't alter history in a bad way. 

Mr. Peabody and Sherman had a lot of fun messing with time. Sherman learned history by actually seeing it, and meeting the people who made it happen. 

One writing prompt I did, in a college writing class was to write a letter to my past self. It's strange, because that letter will never be seen by my past self, but in writing that letter, I realized just how much I had changed, and how I had stayed the same. 
If someone could mess with time, they have this crazy power to change anything. They could change major historic events, but the consequence could be devastating. They could change their own decisions, but then they may not be the same person. 
I have never written a story that messes with time, but it is interesting to entertain the idea. 
What would it be like? 

I think it would be intimidating. If you could change anything, and create whatever you wanted, you are closer to a god than a human. 
But it's also a huge responsibility. you must keep track of events and make sure that you don't alter history or how life is supposed to go. 
But how is life supposed to go? Is that something we have invented due to past experiences? Or is it a future prediction we have yet to reach?

Disney entertained the idea in Tommorowland that ideas themselves have the power to create the future, and the more positively we think, the more amazing and positive the future will be. I think there is some truth to that, at least in terms of an individual. 
If you don't believe that you can do something, then you won't. You will make excuses, you will allow fear to hold you back, or maybe its just something you don't want to do, so you don't, and naturally it doesn't happen. 
But if you believe you can do something, then you start to try. You may fail, try again and if you don't give up, you will accomplish it. Goals, dreams and wishes come true when they are persued. But they are only persued if you believe it is possible. 
No, it's not rocket science, but it is one of the most common morals and lessons in time travel stories. Events happen, but it is up to us to decide the meaning in them. One event may be forgotten, while another could live on forever, remembered as a holiday or an important moment in history.
The time that matters most is now. Because what we do today is a step toward the future, whatever that future might be. 

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