Sunday, April 01, 2007

"If it weren't for my horse...

I never would have spent that year in college." Lewis Black described this phrase as the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. I was recently at Lewis Black's favorite health club, the International House of Pancakes, when I heard a conversation that proves that eavesdropping may be rude, but it can be truly mind-numbingly entertaining.

The couple at the booth behind me were discussing -- nay, debating -- the movie, Back to the Future. The woman was trying to argue that time travel was inherently dangerous because it was messing with the future and altering people's lives, a la Marty making his parents not fall in love and thus jeopardizing his own existence. Ok so far. But then she makes the comment that she has to be careful in 2007 because every little move she makes in her own time may be changing the future lives of people in 2030. Her companion says, "But the future hasn't happened yet."

"Not to us, but to them it has." Huh? Now I started listening in earnest.

I'm reminded of a professor of mine who had a student write a paper about how Thomas Paine's Common Sense influenced Anne Hutchinson. The prof called said student into her office to say why she found this argument incorrect. Mostly dealing with the fact that Anne Hutchinson was preaching in the 1630s and Thomas Paine was writing in the 1770s. The student continued to argue, "But I think he did influence her."

Prof: "But she dies before he is born."
Student: "That doesn't mean he couldn't influence her."
Prof: "Yes, it does."
Student: "I disagree."
Prof: "Well, if you can't accept linear time, I can't help you with this assignment."

Back to the couple at the IHOP. After going on the debate and the woman continuing to maintain that her actions could be altering forever a future that has already occurred, the man brings up Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. "So what if Bill and Ted hadn't passed their history test?"

"Yeah, but Bill and Ted's wasn't a serious film."




Blogger Jade said...

I would argue with her that she can only change the already-existing future if someone from the future comes back and alters what she would have otherwise chosen to do on her own. If she continues to live her life as-is, whether or not she thinks she is motivated by what she wants to do or what she thinks she should do to not alter the future... it's what is going to happen anyway. The only time present actions affect a pre-existing future is when someone from the future travels back. So long as she doesn't deviate from our timeline, things will happen according to how they already happened in the future-past.

Although I don't think she should worry about maintaining timelines anyway... contrary to what we learn from most time travel movies, The Terminator trilogy teaches us that we can't do shit about the future except hunker down in the bomb shelter and wait for it to happen (because if we don't, we'll never be able to see Robert Patrick naked)

Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes!

10:54 AM  
Blogger Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...


12:15 PM  
Blogger Neel Mehta said...

Great post, and Jade provides an interesting analysis. (Okay, so does APL.) I'd only add that, having grown up in a family that practices defensive karma, there's an inclination to not immerse ourselves in the lives of others in the present if we wish to not be intertwined with them in the future.

And there's nothing wrong with thinking outside of linear time -- some would call that anticipation -- but I wouldn't expect to win a lot of arguments.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

How many ways do I love thee for combining Anne Hutchinson and Bill and Ted into a single post? Seriously. This post brings my life full circle. I am now complete.

7:11 AM  
Blogger KLee said...

You should email this whole post to Lewis Black. 'Nuff said.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

Well, let's just hope George W. Bush doesn't influence Thomas Jefferson, or we're in mad trouble.

1:42 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

Was it Star Trek VI in which Scotty and Bones got over the moral dilemma of giving up a big scientific secret by figuring "Hey, WE don't know who invented it! Why not him?"

I just remember what Grandpa Simpson said. Don't sneeze on that dinosaur. Or something like that.

5:19 AM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

Well, once you get rid of that whole linear time thing, arguments always get more interesting ....

7:18 AM  
Blogger Jade said...

Alright, so I read this whole string to my husband last night and he stayed up writing a response to me. It's too funny not to share, but way too long for comments, so I put it on my blog.


Dan's Response:

10:38 AM  
Blogger The Law Fairy said...

As Jade notes, the Terminator movies teach us that we can't change the future. So does Twelve Monkeys, which my first philosophy professor used as an illustration of a particular work we were reading by (I think) Epictetus. You gotta love an ancient Greek philosophy class that devotes a substantial portion of class time talking about Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Man, she was a cool professor.

BTW, Jade, Robert Patrick goes to my church. He's much nicer and less shape-shifting in real life, though if he ever shows up dressed as a cop I'm outta there ;)

(And bdure, it was Trek 4. And to prove my supreme nerdiness, the book based on the movie goes a step further and says he actually WAS the guy who invented transparent aluminum. Everyone please stop staring at me like I'm some kind of circus freak!)

3:24 PM  
Blogger Jade said...

LawFairy - RP goes go your church?!? Oooohhhh, neat! (I'm an X-Files geek so that's my main memory of him, and I still think it's too bad that the writing went downhill after Mulder left, but RP did a most excellent job with what he had to work with and I will forever admire him for that) My fellow X-Phile friend wants to know if he is as cute in person :)

9:31 AM  
Blogger Neel Mehta said...

Right on, Jade. Robert Patrick deserves some sort of medal for his contribution to The X-Files. At the beginning, he was basically replacing Mulder AND Scully.

Law Fairy: Dare you to print out a picture of a preteen Edward Furlong, go up to Robert Patrick, and ask, "Have you seen this boy?" (I'm sure he'll appreciate that for the millionth time.)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Quinn said...

Lawfairy, welcome! And everyone else, thanks for contributing! I'm all about the linear time thing... sort of goes with the job. But I'm intrigued by all these other issues (and the naked Robert Patrick tangent.)

And wouldn't the whole world be better if there were more bodacious water slides in the future?

4:24 PM  
Blogger The Law Fairy said...

Jade, yup! I LOVED him in The X-Files. I, too, was skeptical after Mulder left (and, obviously, I was thrilled when he FINALLY came back to the show), but Doggett really grew on me. I even developed a bit of a crush :)

He is as cute in person, though definitely older than in his T-1000 days.

Neel, how hilarious would that be?

Quinn, thanks for the welcome! Glad to be here :)

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

It appeals to me to read about animals specially horses, since my father had a farm in which he used to breed horses.

10:53 AM  

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