Thursday, October 18, 2007

Changing The Past

Last night, hubby and I watched Journeyman, a new show we’re becoming quite fond of. The premise is similar to Quantum Leap: An unwitting fellow is yanked out of time in order to make small but significant changes in the past.

Unlike the 90’s camp-fest (which I adored along with many others) this new show is darker and the producers seem to be striving for a semblance of realism. It’s like the distinction between early Star Trek and The Next Generation (remember the “tricorder” made from a saltshaker?). The premise is straightforward. The fellow involved has no choice in the matter, disappears without volition (which makes normal living impossible—WARNING: Don’t Let This Guy Drive!) and must struggle to maintain a routine (including wife, child and career) while being sent on these unexpected, involuntary missions.

As I said, we enjoy the show, and hope that it gets a chance to build an audience. I expect that over time it could develop a cult following. *crosses fingers*

The idea strikes a chord for most people, whether they like the show or not. Who hasn’t at one point in their lives (or, if you’re me, several times a day) wished they could go back and give a little nudge to something in the past? Movies like Back to The Future and even Groundhog Day all feed on that inner curiosity, that inevitable urge. What if…? What if…?

There’s an old movie I still watch, Peggy Sue got Married. This is a lovely, cheesy movie with Kathleen Turner playing a middle-aged woman who passes out at a reunion and awakens back in high school. She now has the chance to make significant changes. To choose alternative paths. The possibilities are overwhelming. What might you do differently? Nic Cage (the high school sweetheart and now ex-husband) is hilariously over the top and Jim Carrey makes an early appearance. If you’re looking for a giggle, give it a try.

Who hasn’t considered the idea of changing the past? Oh, sure, I get the whole “Beware The Ramifications” scenario. The “butterfly’s wings” theory that just one insignificant alteration can lead to complete world destruction. *yawn* I prefer the quantum approach. Many worlds to accommodate many choices.

Yet what I realized, as I was exploring this topic today, is how writers relish in the rare opportunity to fiddle with time. Maybe it’s not “real” (but then… “What is reality?” she intones in her best Rod Serling imitation), but we still we have the chance to conjure up alternate scenarios and construct a unique ending.

However, this gift is not limited to writers. Anyone, everyone can do it. When hanging with family and friends, why not give the “what if” game a tentative whirl?

What if NASA had established a Moon Base in the 70’s? What if the space program opened up to include tourists ten years later?

What if nutrition was topsy-turvy and marshmallows were like carrots and dieters could only gaze longingly at a salad bar?

What if aliens DID come to Roswell, but they didn’t crash, but landed successfully. What might they have taught us? How might technology have changed?

Everyone can play the What If game. Not only with world history but with our own personal choices as well. This is a gift that everyone shares. The power of imagination.

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

We already Know what we Know. Let’s imagine what might BE.

Any takers on the What If game?

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