Contemplating the nature of time. As a science fiction and fantasy reader, I see time and time again the concept of time travel introduced, explored, and yearned after. But as an adult human being standing in the present, knowing that the next step, the next keystroke, the next heartbeat, all those lie in the future. There is only one way for me to reach the future, and there is no way for me to reach the past. The past is only clear by looking over my shoulder at the faulty images of memory and snapshots captured in photo and video, sometimes in written journals and lists of what happened then. I can’t go back and alter the past. I can alter the future.
The flow of time is a one-way river we’re drifting on, Oars can’t get us back upstream, but they can change our forward course. And there are currents in the river we can’t always see that dictate where we’re going. I’m not a fatalist. Fate, predestination, whatever you want to call it, I don’t believe in it. I think we do have control over what happens to us in life. I also believe that we can hand over that control, either overtly or covertly, to others. Some people like to control other people. I’ve known them, and have no desire to get into that current again. Other times it’s our own reactions that create that unseen current. If we cannot forgive, there’s a part of the stream into the future that is cut off to us.
There is, I believe, a misconception about forgiveness. For me, at least, I can forgive without forgetting the least thing. And I cannot give my trust back. Forgiveness is not about making up and making everything the way it was before. That’s not possible – or if it were, it’s a wrong and dangerous thing to do. But if we are so set against the associations we’ve made between that which (or who) hurt us, then we can close off part of our potential future to ourselves.
Which is where time machines come in. If we could go back into the past and right a wrong, would we? Should we? I have scars. Some of them are deep and painful. Would I go back and put my hand in between the child I was, and the one who was about to hurt her? Would I go back and grab my teenage self and shake her until she started thinking? I… might not. The scars are signs of how my path through what-was-future changed, and changed again. But where I am now might not have happened if I hadn’t been harmed in the first place. The resilience I learned in the past stands me in good stead here in the present. Am I saying that if I saw a child in the same place, a teen in the same place, where I was then, I wouldn’t step in and prevent them from being scarred? No. Actually, that’s part of why I write this blog. Because someone out there might be where I was in my early 20s and this might help them step away from a situation that could cripple them for years.
The thing the stream of time gives us is distance. It takes a while. A long while, in some cases. Years to gain the necessary perspective to look back at a point that left the scar, and be able to embrace the present, knowing that where we are might not have been possible if it were not for that pivotal point in the stream. We must forgive, though, or we get caught in an eddy and spin dizzy in a whirlpool, being sucked down by the very thing we can’t let go of. We’ve given that person, that event, so much weight that it’s become an anchor. Only when you let go and start looking into the future, rather than trying to invent the time machine to change the past, can you learn to navigate the stream of time and steer into the possibilities of tomorrow.