Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time and Time Again: An Essay on Time Travel

I was busking midway down East 14th when a lady pushing a shopping cart laden with cans and bottles stopped and danced to my strumming. Wearing quite tight blue jeans and a white t-shirt, she took to stumble-dancing around me. The song was Summer Wine, and she crouched down very close to me and sang from this position. She was so close I could smell the beer on her breath. Right after our duet she waltzed over to her over-stuffed shopping cart and picked out nineteen cents -- a dime and nine pennies, and tossed the coins into my empty guitar case.
Thank-you, I said.
You are very welcome, she replied. That song will always take me back, she said.
Back to where? I asked.
Back to my teenage years. Oh but I loved being a teenager! Whenever I hear songs like that I travel back in time and become a teenager again, just for moments mind you, but I do, I really do. I like to go back there often, she replied.

Since then I've thought about what she said. I, too, like to travel back in time, and I do so often. And you know, she and I are not unique in this regard. We, as intelligent creatures, have been infatuated with notions of time travel for quite some time and throughout the ages have devised the machinery to get there, wherever there is.

An energetic Albert Einstein concluded that the past, the present, and the future all exist simultaneously, and that any separation of the past, present, and future is merely an illusion. The calculated Stephen Hawking noted that the absence of tourists from the future constitutes an argument against the existence of time travel. Carl Sagan, the down-to-earth astronomer, suggested that time travellers could be here, but are disguising their existence.

Charles Dickens had the reprehensible Ebenezer Scrooge transported to Christmases past, present, and future; Bill and Ted had several excellent adventures travelling through time; and more than a few times did the ever adorable Marty McFly travel back to the future.

The scientific machinery thought of to travel time has included speed, cosmic strings, worm holes, and parallel universes; whereas the imaginary time machinery for fiction has included ghosts, telephone booths, and even a De Lorean.

Never mind the mechanics of science nor the machines of fiction. My bag lady cohort needed only a song for real time travel and, as for me, I need only my mind to time travel wherever I've been whenever I want.

A few examples for my own time travel come quickly to mind:
I can instantly recall sitting beside my Grandfather on the sofa when I was seven years old, while he read his Max Brand pocket novels and smoked his pipe. Ah, that pleasing sweet odour of apple and cherry blends still can comfort me to this day. And once a year when I attend any Remembrance Day Service, I can immediately see my Father, so long ago, marching in the Poppy Day Parade amid the annual cacophony of horns and hoots of patriotism in my home town. I am close to a very lovely young lady whose father I knew when I was fourteen years old. Whenever in her presence I seem to instinctively travel many years back to a Prairie rink a couple of hundred miles away, and vividly recollect having grinding hockey games against her dad. Who knew then that I would eventually possess such a power.

Memories to me are proof positive that time travel does exist, but only under a prescribed condition: To travel to the past, one has to have a past. Each of us has an exclusive past filled with people and places, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. Whether one's past is rich in adventure or droned in dreariness, each of us has the power to travel there on a whim and a fillip.

Travelling to the future, too, is easy, but relies solely upon one's introspection, because we've only storied pasts for reference. Depending on whether we are the sum or the prisoner of our past experiences will very much determine the tone of our emotional path as we time travel to our future.

It is a crazy world -- but if we consciously combine our collected stories from our past with our imagined knowledge for our future, we can certainly make our present world much more manageable.

1 comment:

  1. "We are the sum or the prisoner of our past experiences." That means for me a big responsibility for creating our future, for being the best we can be. Of course a big responsibility, but one that we can cheerfully accept.