[Lunching with Willie. Trying to remember the name Rasputin so I could order another stout. 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.