Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Devices of Time Travel

                “Now I got a time machine at home… It only goes forward at regular speed.  It’s essentially a cardboard box and on the outside I wrote ‘time machine’ in Sharpie” – Demetri Martin

                The idea of time travel is something that has fascinated me ever since I first saw the movie ‘Back to the Future’ in 1985. That film had such a profound effect on my childhood that still to this day, if you asked me to pick a favorite film…that would be it.  But to tell the truth, time travel has been a topic in a few movies on my top ten: ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Midnight in Paris’ are some others that readily come to mind. I even wrote time travel into my ‘Sebastian and the Afterlife’ books.
                But who hasn’t had a fantasy about time-travelling back and experiencing another time period? Or at least dreamt about going back to tell yourself about the winning lottery numbers or what stocks to buy? I think it would be nice to show up at various points in my life and beat the snot out of myself whenever I was about to make a huge life-altering mistake (… and I’ve made a few in my time… I’ll probably make a couple more before I’m done).
                I’ve sometimes thought it would be fun to go back to the 1980s, when new-wave was cutting edge and classic 80’s movies were first hitting the big screen. Or maybe it'd be nice to experience an earlier time period. It might be good for a visit, but when I think about it further, there were a lot of terrible things going on in the 80s… and most other time periods for that matter.  I don’t even want to consider hygiene or health care when you start really turning back the clock … And there may be oppression and injustice now, but it only gets worse as you go backward. 
                In the film ‘Midnight in Paris’ (which is brilliant, by the way), the pedantic Paul character makes a reference to something called ‘Golden Age Thinking’. He says it’s “the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in.” His character is effectively annoying in the movie, but this particular statement makes a lot of sense to me. Come to think of it, there are a whole lot of amenities and advancements that have come about in the last ten years that I would never want to have to live without.
                Is my nostalgia misguided? Sure there are some exciting movements and trends in history that would be fun to have a part in, but maybe I have been too lenient on whole time periods. Most of them are not without really terrible elements. So, beyond some of the pop culture, what do I miss about the 1980s? I think the early 1990s were better for me anyway.
                I was a kid in the 80s, and I didn’t really notice as much of the scary things in the world as much as I noticed my dreams … and that my life was ahead of me. Anything was possible. As for me, when I was nine I decided I was going to be a rock star… it was totally going to happen (still might). Maybe my ability to dream unencumbered by my cynicism is what I miss most about the 80s.
                That’s the nicest thing about books and films…they are devices of time travel. Not necessarily to another time period in history, but another time period psychologically. You are free to lose yourself in outlandish ideas, dreaming of the possibilities as if you were a child. Maybe some of the wide-eyed optimism could even creep out of the story and into one’s mentality. Maybe we could all re-realize that the future still holds endless possibilities for us.  So get a book, get a movie; I think it’s time we did more time travelling.

Kind Regards,
William j Barry

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