(Time Travel for Geniuses and Dummies)
Thus, said British theoretical-physicist Stephen Hawking in his robotic voice about Time Travel in a documentary. Visiting a beloved deceased person in the past. Taking a look at what the future will bring for your family. All that supposedly to help us live the present well. So, if you are unhappy where you are and in your circumstances, beam yourself through time and live some other place and time. (A lot of Filipino workers today just travel by plane and find their dreams abroad.)
With Time Travel, people will have practically become like God! For as Jonathan Livingston Seagull said, “Heaven is not a place; it is being there.” Or words to that effect.
But given that chance – no, the power — to zip through spacetime at will, would still leave unsatisfied people as they are wherever and whenever they may be. Why? Because whether you live in the past, say at 7a.m. of December 30 in the year 1896, or in the future, say at 12 nn of June 12 in 2010, it will still be the present FOR YOU. Living at the time Rizal died would have given us an entirely different kind of political and religious realities but the greed, corruption, violence and intolerance will still be there. The same self-effacing, patient but discontented people will still live in this country. Perhaps, the same anger, fears and confusion will reign in our hearts at what is happening in the world. We will still celebrate the same joyous and colorful town fiestas and see the same bucolic countryside with its verdant rice-fields cultivated by the same serene carabaos, all that surrounded by creaking and swaying tall bamboo groves in the same gentle breezes.
And living in a future time when our country would have been totally free of all foreign exploitation and control will still bring us almost the same kinds of diseases and problems we now have – diabetes, hypertension, high prices, unemployment, immorality, terrorism and running nose. Don’t forget taxes and death.
And yes, even if Christ happened to visit that place and time you also visit, He would still preach the same message – Repent for the Kingdom is at hand. Sin would still follow you, in short.
H. G. Wells, who started it all with his classic novel, Time Machine, had his hero battling for survival in a society still ruled by greed and violence. Even Marty McFly (Back to the Future character played by Michael J. Fox), with all the fancy technology he had, still had to deal with the same basic problems – bullies, drunken villains and terrorists. And the old Time Tunnel TV series dealt with problems not of their time (getting caught in a WWII battle or in Napoleon’s war) to present us with thrilling possibilities. Somewhere in Time came very close to convincing many of us that we, minus technology and with only the mind and will power, can conquer time – and true love. And that is what Time Travel is all about – a way of escaping time or the present, a way of whiling away your time. In short, a pleasant way of avoiding or postponing the responsibilities we face at the moment, here and now.
Books and movies are a kind of time machine which allows us to escape the present. Cheap but effective. Their appeal lies in their ability to bring us vicariously into any time or situation imaginable. Physicists may conjure uncharted pathways through the cosmos and tease us with the feasibility of time travel at the speed of light. Some esoteric practitioners may even convince us to attain so-called astral projection where the human soul or mind can be disembodied and allowed to travel through physical space. (What for? Because they can! But don’t do this at home. You might end up somewhere else.) But with a beautiful, compelling story, any human can already transport his whole being into realms of wild adventure, of sublime existence and of fresh emotions.
It seems we will never run out of hunger for old things or new things. Some collect antiques; others collect prototype cars. And some simply prefer the present — the things they already have. (Boring but cheap.) We look forward to seeing a new movie almost as much as watching an old favorite movie. (New is not future but present, by the way.) In the latter case, I am glad I am so forgetful since it helps me enjoy watching an old movie if I do not remember what will happen next. Sometimes, I willfully forget in order to keep the suspense. Sometimes, it works and an old movie becomes new again! It is a kind of useful self-deception only a movie-addict can pull off.
Yes, I have traveled so many times through time and space, back and forth, and have remained always in the present – inside a theater and sometimes while texting a friend. Thanks to movies and technology. And, yes, I have also loved and have known love. As a lad, I fell in love with Susan Roces and Elizabeth Taylor. (Who can deny that movies teach us how to love?) Today, how could anyone not love Keira Knightley, or, at least, her character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Or Angel Locsin or Sarah Geronimo or . . . .
Time, ultimately, is not in control at all but the human consciousness or human spirit is. It will be but a matter of, well, time when we will finally attain complete mastery over all the secrets of the Universe. This is not wistful thinking but a promise of the One Who created everything and surrendered it under the dominion of humans. Unfortunately, we failed the first primary test and lost so much power and privilege we can only dream of traveling through time instead of simply doing it.
But thanks to the human imagination, we can still time-travel in our mind. Doing so will keep us hoping for the time when time itself will be but a memory – no thought of a past or a future, only the present existing in eternity.
Sorry to say, Mr. Hawking; but I have met so many people from the past and from the future. In fact, I know someone Who remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Why? Because He is eternal. And it doesn’t take a lot of Physics or technology to meet Him.
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