Monday, November 20, 2006

Chapter 30: A Clarification on the Malleability of the Past

Previous didactic treatises by my person have sought to explain the nature of time travel based on certain incidents that have been related to me by the somewhat dubious personage of Spinner McBlam’s cousin, who assures me that his name is too important to pronounce with one mouth. (In fact he will not respond unless at least 3 people voice his monosyllabic name – at least one has to be female, for purposes of harmony and distinction, he assures me*)

These accounts may have left the impression that the Scientific Community is in complete agreement on the matter. . . which we are not. The Lesser Scientific Community(LSC) has certain objections to the possibility of time travel. We in the Greater Scientific Community(GSC) try to avoid the hint of smugness in our voice when we point out that it is simply because they have not tried it yet.

Their arguments are fascinating and even spill over into the realms of the present and future, including destiny and freewill in a shameless attempt to appear “deep.” You see, there is good data from studies indicating that if a female perceives that a male in the LSC is “deep” she will ignore the growing awkwardness in his conversation for an additional 12 seconds before turning her attention to the shallow, but good-looking gentleman standing by the punch-bowl at the get-together. These additional 12 seconds of female attention are considered invaluable by the LSC. We in the GSC are above such qualms as pandering to the feminine aesthetic because, as David Sagus puts it: “They kind of have to start talking to us first.”

The LSC posits that if time travel is possible it is highly probable. Who would be able to do that and not use it? Therefore since the past has never been changed we have to assume that it cannot be changed. It is thus fixed and not subject to change. Therefore, since the present is nothing but the future’s past it is likewise unchangeable and so is the future – for how could a changeable outcome grow out of an unchangeable one? Destiny is absolute and nothing can change it.

Some disagreeable people disagree. . . er, naturally. They point out that if the past were changed our present would be destroyed and replaced by one more agreeable to the new logical flow of events. Therefore, we wouldn’t know that the past had been changed because memory is based (loosely) on previous events and the old, replaced memories would find themselves popping, embarrassed out of a mind in which they no longer had an excuse to inhabit. Memory is hard to hang on to anyway, much less when it knows it is no longer welcome. This would cause us to assume that the past is set, to proclaim so loudly, bask in the attention it provides, and then accept the set course of events as inevitable and with resignation when she goes to talk to Mark by the Punchbowl.

We in the GSC know that both extremes are extemperroneous. According to the theories of relativity nothing polite can travel faster than light. So the changes sliding down time’s arrow, like so many Cheerios down a string of minty dental floss would take an amount of time proportional to their distance from the present to snap the present into alignment.

Roy claims to have visited a family who, due to long memories and an incomprehensible stubborn streak, are able to recall the past past even after the new past has caught up to them. When asked to explain how they are capable of retaining memories which have no right to exist in their minds they reply: “Why should I?”
I told you they were stubborn.

I was having trouble understanding the concept. It was hard for me to focus on the story as Roy3 and I were Indian Leg Wrestling while he held forth.

“It’s like this,” Tri-Roy said as he pulled my knee into the general vicinity of my face, “When you saw George Lucas’s brilliant documentary Star Wars as a youngster you enjoyed the encounter with Han Solo and Greedo in the Cantina.”

“Yes!” I said, renewing my efforts and pulling our legs vertical again. I fear my flailing arm was interfering with Mark’s concentration, batting as it was at his pantleg. He showed remarkable calm, not spilling a drop as he ladled punch into a cup for the lovely lady who was walking around us from the disappointed fellow behind her as if she didn’t see us leg wrestling in the middle of the party. Mark smiled at her showing his fierce concentration and fiercer dimples.

“Well when he re-released the footage you were disappointed. You remembered how it went before he bowed to the Historical Revisionist Hollywood Left.”

“Honestly!” I said, losing a little leverage as well as a little pressure. The lady still evinced not to notice us. “There’s no way a feared bounty hunter could miss a seated target from across the table!”

“Well it’s like that, only for that family it’s like: ‘I liked things around here better when Cornwallis won the war.’”


Jonny10 said...

* Calling him Roy Roy Roy won't work either as the triple Roy must be uttered simultaneously

David Sagus said...

This appears to be one of those times where it actually comes in useful to be able to harmonize with yourself.

Jonny10 said...

Yeah, it was a pain to sing happy birthday to him too. Especially since he wants it sung in the language of each of his five favorite birth planets.