Overweening Generalist

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keeping Up-To-Date on Time Travel

                                             Or to render time and stand outside
                                             The horizontal rush of it, for a moment
                                             To have the sensation of standing outside
                                             The greenish rush of it.
                                             -from "Time and Materials," by Robert Hass

I see that recent experiments in physics have ("temporarily"?) put the kibosh on our hopes for time-travel, especially travel backwards in time. (See links at the end of this article.) When you've fantasized about somehow traveling to another time, is it usually the past or the future? I think when I was a child I'd fantasize about some future-world, one with my own jet-pack. Now I tend to fantasize about going back...and not to kill my grandfather, either: that, as I understand it, is definitely out-of-bounds, and leads to all manner of hideous paradoxes. Not to mention: I loved my grandpa!

(But if I ran into Hitler, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot that mutha; I'm usually a Gandhi nonviolent dude, but in this extreme case I'd make an exception, even though I'd probably be haunted by an old Ray Bradbury short story in which some Disney-like company allows you to travel back in time and see the dinosaurs, but you must not step off the special track and change the world "back then" in the slightest way, because it could have enormous ramifications down through the years. One person steps in the jurassic mud, and...oh, you go ahead and read "A Sound of Thunder" from The Golden Apples of the Sun; it's also collected in Twice 22.)

It seems to me a psychological state of openness to infinitude aligns with daydreams about time-travel. Unless you catch yourself wishing you could go back to that time not long ago when you said or did something deeply embarrassing, and...not do that thing (but then you'd have to stay stuck there in time, or do you imagine you get back into the telephone-booth-like dealio and presto!: you're back in "real time," whatever that is?), you probably want to see for yourself what Things Would Be Like Then. And I don't blame you. But the physicists have just outlawed it, so forget it. But we can't forget it, right?

If I met someone and eventually I asked him or her, "When you fantasize about time travel, where do you go?," and the person quickly replied that they had never fantasized about time travel, it's for imbeciles and science fiction freaks and seriously disturbed people or all of the above, I would assume there was something wrong with a person who asserts they'd never dabbled with their imagination in such a way. I just tend to assume there's something a bit off-kilter with the person who - truly - has never fantasized about time travel. But maybe I'm the weird one in this instance. It wouldn't be the first time!, to put it mildly...

Now, I admit: the people who've memorized every line from every script of Star Trek and the convention is the best three days of the year for them, every year: those people seem a tad "much" for me. I just think it's healthy to fantasize about time travel every now and then, even if you know it's "impossible."

Why would I think it's somewhat unhealthy to not fantasize about time travel every now and then, even if you know it's impossible? Maybe because I think we ought  to desire freedom from the constraints and limitations of time. It just seems healthy to me to desire an ecstasy like that. And it seems culturally ubiquitous (nota bene science fiction and movies and TV), which makes me happy. There are a lot of others who'd like to somehow transcend time's vast-yet-still-limited elbow room. Sure, it's impossible. But...

I think maybe I time travel when I read books and see movies. It's good enough for me. When I'm reading Plato, I can't help but see myself in a white robe and sandals, walking through the Agora in Athens, listening in on Socrates. (In recent years, I tend to favor the Sophists, but that's for another blogspew.) When I read Montaigne I find I've developed a picture of what his round book-lined tower room looks, feels, and even smells like.

"Are you kiddin' me? You wanna be wit all dem whattyacall philosophy majors? Don't know 'bout you, but, uhhh...Me? I'm goin' back in time for one ting and one ting only: to get into Cleopatra's panties! She looked exactly like Liz Taylor when she was thin...Oh! Hold on a minute! Wait! No, no, I got it: I'm going back to 1951 and jumpin' Marilyn Monroe's bones! Wham bam thank you m'am and then I hop out the window, find the gizmo in the bushes, and ZAP!: I'm back here in time for the game."

Yea, okay. Different strokes for different folks. Good luck to you anyway...and how did you get into this blog? Who let you in? Anyway...

Hey, I'd like some circa-1960 Anne Bancroft sex, but somehow that's not the kind of scenario that comes to me, unbidden, when I find myself thinking of "being" back There somewhere, in "time."

I put "time" in quotes, because we know that space and time are two sides of the same coin. So we ought to say "space-time travel." But we don't. It's a convention, I guess. Kinda like how we say,"I don't have time for this nonsense, " and not "I don't have the space-time for this nonsense."

Space travel! For now, it's impossible, but could we engineer the worm hole thing? It keeps the dream alive, at least. As for us, we'll have to alter out own perceptions of time via sex, drugs and rock and roll.

If that's all I have to offer you, I'm okay with that. Enjoy.

Do you tend want to go forward or backward in time, if you could?

Recent studies that tend to suggest time travel is a no-no are found here and here. The Wikipedia article on time travel is pretty cool, and it's here.


Anonymous said...


often I want to go back, but as a chick, I think it would be madness to go to a time when I had no rights, so I get scared and say...sigh...Victorian times of when inventors could invent and not have their inventions bought up by an industry that wants to homogenize, I can't go to you so I will try to go to the future, but not a dystopian future of more homogenizing, but an awesomer future where we go back to the notion of everybody can be an inventor and whatnot. So, to answer your question, future, but maybe a back to to the past future where the new tech and the old something coexist, like in Firefly.

michael said...

I had to look up Firefly. I had no idea that existed! Yes, the "problem" of time travel gets to be funny pretty quickly. I can imagine going back to just hang around Leonardo and see how he operated, but as soon as I suddenly appeared in a public square in Florence, all kinds of people would flip out at the weirdo in the odd clothes. I wonder what the Medicis would think of my Converse High Tops?

I guess I'd want to go in the appropriate garb, but then there's a language problem. Even if I were a modern Greek - which I am not - I couldn't have understood Socrates anyway.

So I guess we may as well go all the way when we fantasize about time travel: you can speak the language, you have the correct clothes, and you have a stash of antibiotics in your toga or whatever...?

Oh the hell with it: you know the recent research on cloaking devices? (The comedian John Hodgeman said 'big deal,' he already has one: it's called a "cloak.") Well, we somehow perfect those and we get to go back or forward in time and be INVISIBLE too, when we want. The possibilities- not to mention the responsibilities - are immense! So...enjoy!

Thanks for checking in, White Picket Dense.

Carl said...

Time travel is my biggest fantasy ever! I day dream about it ALMOST EVERY DAY (not kidding). yes it is healthy, and that hypothetical bitch can get screwed!