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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Time Travel Revisited

It is the last November day, and I felt it apposite to revisit the past  --180 degrees across the zodiac minus seven years-- to an outdoor cafe with my friend of over half a century. Somehow the gist of conversation and Rasputin Beer seems appropriate. The enigmas discussed over that summertime table seemed to bear on the present --a chill winter, December tomorrow, and a world in contention. I was recently reminded of Thos. Wolfe's line: "You can't go home again."  In fact, even if you do go home, it's nearly impossible to find a parking place.  Time travel seems the best solution. I am privileged to travel at least this far and relive a warm and delightful day. 


Sunday, June 6, 2010


Time Travel

[Lunching with Willie. Trying to remember the name Rasputin so I could order another stout. My hair highlights caused by misfiring synapses.]

Time travel, with its paradoxes, enigmatic loops and plot lines is a staple of science fiction. Wellsian machineries cast our thoughts swiftly back and forth through time. We are thrilled in incomprehensible forces. We should also be thrilled to know time machines actually exist.

Real time machines fall somewhat short of imaginary ones. They travel slowly and into the future only. They do last a lifetime, but tend to go to pieces before the journey's end. I refer to the normal process of ageing, which goes forward in reality but only virtually into the past. One recalls the past --a memory, a figment-- less precisely as time goes by.

This by no means presages mental weakness. I have devoted much work to getting older and can attest, the power of progressive memory loss should not be underestimated. Most of politics and all of public opinion are based upon it. With practice, we can persuade ourselves it is not always what we remember that interests us, but what we forget. And, of course, there are some experiences for which amnesia is simply the most accurate memory. Wisdom stirs.

It does not stir quietly. How distressing to find the wisdom of age predicated on a falsehood, not upon experience so much as just keeping one's mouth shut. One has something to contribute to discussion but exact names and places are on back-order. Time is not travelled uniformly, and prudence demands a dignified, alert silence. Happily, this can serve to sensitize us to truth.

Age quiets us into keen observers of truth. We tend not to view it as ultimate, absolute good but as something quite dangerous, best rationed out over a period of time. Time. As we recognize truth, especially in places where it is neither expected nor plentiful, possibly not even welcome, we gain some control of our time machine. If we keep our own counsel, we can explore undisturbed.

There is a freedom in restraint. Perhaps it comes from gradually concerning ourselves less and less with the good opinion of young people. The reasons we older people go about things need in no way trouble them. Let's consider that a prime directive.

Young people are in better repair than we are, mechanisms less encumbered by the past. I have said the past is virtual, and it is. It has no mass, no weight, yet if we dwell on it overmuch it can crush us. This new world, with a few jarring differences, is much like the world I was young in. I spent considerable resources learning how to have a past and am qualified to advise a policy of non-interference.

These new time machines are tuning themselves over our imperfect past, a dream in which the floor moves and the house keeps coming down. They have much to contend with, but it is more likely during their spans of operation than ours that the secrets of time will be solved and all our journeys explained.

24 comments:

  1. This time machine is like a freight train barreling ahead into the future. I ride in the caboose where I can still see the past growing small in the distance in the hopes that when the train stops for me it will have to wait while I walk from the caboose to the engine before I make my departure. I like the past, I know what to expect from it.

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    1. Indeed, Delores. The past is reliable, which is probably why memories come true oftener than dreams.

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  2. Very profound. My time machine has the advantage of looking back and enjoying much of the past. It does try to peer into the future at times but the future is murky. I look forward to it. At times it is fun to watch the newer models navigate and at times I would like to adjust a few knobs. All in all they will probably be fine.

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    1. Emma, the past teaches us reason and caution, which is probably why so many of our forays into the future are successful.

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  3. It can be such a temptation to allow our minds to rest peacefully in the kinder gentler past, because there are no bad surprises back there. We already know about all the rough patches we've traversed and survived. Now we're hurtling forward on this runaway time machine, and it has no brakes. Best to keep looking out the windows and enjoy the scenery as it flashes past, and continue to hope for the best.

    Have a super weekend, dude.

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    1. Dear Susan, now I must beg to differ. Einstein decided our perception of time progressing forward is the result of a stubborn illusion. In which case, I imagine consciousness would work as "brakes". I hope he was right. If he wasn't, I'll have to find somebody smarter to ask and that could take some time.

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    2. Lots of luck finding somebody smarter than Einstein. :)

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    3. Haven't found a mind or imagination beyond his yet, but luck sometimes generates extraordinary events. You have a super weekend too!

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  4. We look at the past through rose colored glasses and to the future with trepidation. That old time machine keeps on chugging along and I am holding on with white knuckles. For some reason when I was young I thought that would always be the case and old age would be something that would not happen to me. Thankfully, I was wrong.

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    1. Who you callin' old, Arleen? Certainly not yourself. You have a good and facile mind, more than capable of navigating toward a future that best includes us. I'm glad you're here.

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  5. Somewhere about halfway through your post I was reminded of the old line "it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" and by the time I came to the end I was nodding in agreement with that part also. Let the youngsters huff and puff and make their own progress and their own mistakes; we had the same opportunity. Heck, I'm still doing it, just at the further end of the time scale ...

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    1. Jenny, I believe education is the solution. Who was it --Santayana?--said "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." I quote from faulty memory but add that they are also doomed to repeat it inaccurately.

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  6. Okay, I was extremely intrigued when you mentioned Rasputin Beer. I'd never heard of it before, but it sounds like something tailor-made to satisfy my unconventional tastes. I did a quick Google search and was delighted to learn that it really exists. Of course, it probably doesn't exist in rural Tennessee...

    Your post is so good that there's really nothing I can add to improve it. As we travel through the marvel of time, I always feel lighter as I shed the burdens of the past.... yet, there are inevitable future burdens to contend with. And the weight is often unbearable.

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    1. Dear Jon, if Rasputin Stout is not the best beer on earth, it is undoubtedly the blackest. I enjoy it when I find it and the lunch at the Tower Cafe with Will in 2010 was my 1st encounter with it. Will and I discovered Guinness Extra Stout together in the late '60s and consider it close in quality. As for the past, much of my acceptance of my older self is due to a hypnotherapist who taught me self-compassion. That and good beer have eased my burdens.

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  7. I keep circling back-in my very very recent past, to your line-"It has no mass, no weight, yet if we dwell on it overmuch it can crush us." For whatever reason that has grabbed me. I confess that our present national reality has nudged me toward regretting what is being lost-as we slide further down and away from civility and decency. I suppose it is a kind of despair that has me dwelling too much on the past. But your essay also brings with it a wise underpinning that we do indeed become keen observers. I like to think clarity is a truth though in some places truth may not be welcomed. A truth however is that in the end we indeed like a mist. Our sense of time, like truth, seems perhaps distorted by our rather limited perspective in this end of the milky way.

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    1. Thank you, Tom. We are indeed limited to the 5 senses needed to sustain ourselves on this world, but our minds seek ever-expanding regions of organization --and may compose a sense in themselves. I'm reminded of Ralph Hodgson's line,"Some things must be believed to be seen."

      p.s. Your comment didn't fall thru a "wrinkle in time". I just turned in early last night without checking Comment Moderation. Now I'm thinking about Madeline L'Engle for some reason.

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  8. I would love to have a time machine. I believe I would spend more time going backwards rather than forwards, which is the exact opposite of the direction I would have chosen 40 years ago.

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    1. The future always seems so tentative, so I'm not sure its infinite possibilities --each with its own past-- can be more than locally navigated. But (working in infinities) we can't discount the possibility of general navigation either, which is confusing. All I know is reason, compassion and love increase our choices. Good thing too!

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  9. I had never heard of Rasputin Stout before so I Googled it and found it's actually Old Rasputin Stout. Regardless, I enjoy a pint of stout myself so I'll keep an eye out for this one.

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    1. Happy hunting, Bruce. I hope you enjoy the brew as much as I did.

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  10. Rasputin Stout sounds good in any timeline, perfect for me, currently addled by shift work and various overcommitments - and the annoyance of knowing I should know better by now - I'm not what day or year it is. This does have the advantage of keeping me humble however - although that once was my excuse for drunken misdemeanours. All part of this adventure, let's drink to that! x

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  11. Oh how I wish!!
    A time machine would be a dream come true...just think of how many mistakes could be undone, and heartbreaks avoided!
    I have never heard of Rasputin Stout either, but then, I've never even tasted Stout. I'm more a Smirnoff girl! lol

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    1. We each experience the past from different coordinates and can in combination explore a safer future. I suspect the temptation to erase early errors would recede into imagination as time-travel created new ones. And yet, I wish too!

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