Monday, May 20, 2019

Conversations With Myself

"Time is like wax, dripping from a candle flame. In the moment, it is molten and falling, with the capability to transform into any shape. Then the moment passes, and the wax hits the tabletop and solidifies into the shape it will always be. It becomes the past, a solid, single record of what happened, still holding in its wild curves and contours, the potential of every shape it could have held."
Welcome to Night Vale episode 21, "A Memory of Europe"

We are who we are, in the situation we are, because of a whole series of decisions we've made in the past. Some of them were life changing and we knew it (or at least suspected it) at the time. Some were life changing and we had no idea. We still don't. Others seemed life changing, but maybe didn't really make much of a difference. Now I'm not saying that we are truly the masters of our fate, able to conjure up any outcome simply through our choices. No, there are too many elements outside of our control. But there are moments in everyone's life when we come to a fork in the road and we know it, and there's not usually a scarecrow there to help us decide. What if we'd taken the other path? What would our lives be like now if we had?

There are many stories and plot lines where a character finds him or herself in a different timeline because of some change in the past. In many of these stories, the timelines move parallel to each other and the character can jump back and forth between them. But in most of these stories, at least the ones I know about, the character retains all of his or her past experiences in the new timeline and needs to figure out how their current situation is different from the one they remember.

What if, instead of bouncing from timeline to timeline, you could pick out specific moments in the past, specific decisions that you made, and conjure up the you that made a different decision at that point, and talk to them in their version of the present. What if you could sit down and interview that other self about their life in 2019? What would you ask them? What do you wonder about from that alternate decision timeline? What specific decision points would you choose? Why?

Would you even want to do this if you could? You can't trade places with your other selves, you can only know what would have been. Would that knowledge benefit you, or would it cause deep pangs of regret? Perhaps such knowledge is not helpful after all.

"It can be overwhelming, this splattered, inert wax, recording every turn not taken. What's the point? you ask. Why bother? you say. Oh Cecil, you cry. Oh Cecil.

But then you remember, I remember, that we are even now in another bit of molten wax. We are in a moment that is still falling, still volatile, and we will never be anywhere else. We will always be in that most dangerous, most exciting, most possible time of all: the now, where we can never know what shape the next moment will take. 

Stay tuned for... well, let's just find out together, shall we?
Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight."

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