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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 06.14.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

What time is it was?

Time travel is exhausting.

I watched the new Men in Black movie this past weekend, and I don't think it's giving away any spoilers to say that a) Will Smith is aging wonderfully, b) Tommy Lee Jones is starting to look like a half-melted candle, and c) the plot involves time travel.

Remember, this is a Men in Black movie, not Bergman. Good guys splatter aliens, chuckles ensue. It's a film for people who found The Avengers too mentally taxing.

But whenever anyone time travels in a film, I get all worked up trying to sort out it out:

"Wait now, if he's in the past, does he no longer exist in the present? And if he doesn't exist in this new present, how could he go back to the past to change it? Or is he in both states at once? And if so, doesn't that mean that the past and future are happening simultaneously and ultimately cancel each other out? And wouldn't that result in a state wherein time stands still? And wouldn't we call such a state ‘a hospital waiting room’?"

At which point I've completely stopped concentrating on the movie and the neighbouring patrons have begun shooshing me.

This may be the very reason that time travel hasn't been invented, not because it's impossible but because it's just too complex for the brain to grasp. I mean, I can barely comprehend TiVo.

For example, it's one thing to travel through time, but we also live in space. Our planet is always moving, not just spinning on its axis but revolving around the sun. If you move through time alone without adjusting for the movement of the universe, isn't it likely you'll end up somewhere horrible, like in outer space or a wall or Calgary?

And time travel is rife with paradox. For instance, if you went back in time and killed your father before you were conceived, wouldn't it be impossible do so since you were never born? And wouldn't your mother so-o-o-o ground you?

Or maybe the reason scientists haven't invented time travel is because they know that, after sweating all that time at the drawing board, some jackass is just going to go back in time and patent the idea first. There's just no profit margin in that. The lawyers, of course, would have a field day, so there's another reason not to invent it.

That's the thing with time travel. Everybody says they would go back and kill Hitler (which wouldn't be as easy as it sounds because there were probably a lot more Hitlers in the phone book than there are today). Instead, I'm pretty sure most people would use time travel to undo the minor annoyances of their lives -- go back in time and put mustard on that sandwich instead of mayonnaise; buy the red shirt instead of the green; not elect Stephen Harper.

When I think about the candy dispenser in the lobby of the movie theatre, the one that gave me only three pieces of candy for my quarter and then (me assuming I'd get the backed-up candy plus another full allotment with my second quarter) only two pieces, I wanted to travel back in time, find whoever invented that candy dispenser, and punch him right in the Mike and Ikes.

Probably right now you're wishing you could go back in time and not read this column...

There'd be so much hopping around and undoing the past that our present reality would constantly be changing. One moment you'd be walking down the street, the next you'd be a sex slave to the Tabulins of Versuziana, all because someone went back in time to that bar to try out a different pickup line.

But what about the concept of destiny...?

Too confusing, too much to think about. We're just not ready for it. Maybe we'll only be ready for time travel when we stop thinking altogether, which, the way things are going, should be any time soon.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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