Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Back and Forth for Me

The other day -- whilst taking a break from a marathon research session -- I was flipping around the TV dial and came upon the movie, Back to the Future. Yes, I know, we're not talking about about an Oscar-winning flick, but it's one I've enjoyed many times...that is, if I don't think about it very deeply.

While the film is a rather whimsical look at "time travel", it suffers from the same fatal flaw that all books and movies of this genre suffer from -- there's one variable not accounted for.

The person who leaves "today" for their trip to past or future can never return again. Of course, their body can return to the appointed time, but their consciousness is forever altered. For example, in Back to the Future, Marty changes some past events by his very presence, yet, when he returns to the "present", his consciousness is not altered.

Everything around him is changed. His parents have different personae as do his two siblings. The bully of his father's youth is now dad's gofer. Yet, for all these critical changes, Marty is the same. His consciousness basically is unchanged from the time he left.

As Taoism teaches and commonsense reveals, every action taken creates a ripple effect. It spreads out from the original point in ways we are unable to fathom. This is the prime lesson in the classic film, It's a Wonderful Life, in which George Bailey gets to see what life would be like had he never have been born.

Returning to Back to the Future, if Marty McFly's parents had tread a different path, the Marty that returned to the future wouldn't have been the same Marty that left for the past!

Moving beyond the fantasy of film, this same principle applies to real life. I don't know how many times I've heard a friend ask the question, What if s/he had done such and such a thing at a critical point in life instead of the path that was chosen? The friend then tells you how they imagine their life would be so different.

Unlike most people, I don't spend a lot of time looking back. What has been done was done and, rightly or wrong, it's led me to the present point. I realize intuitively that had I chosen a different path, I wouldn't be in the same place right now and, thus, could not even entertain the question.

For me, this is why second guessing our life's choices is an utter waste of time. If we had chosen a different path at any point -- whether we deem it significant or not -- our lives may have gone off in an entirely different direction and none of us would have even the tiniest inkling what that direction might be.

So, I try to embrace the present without spending too much time thinking about the past or future. I can't change my past and I can only influence the future when it becomes the present.


  1. The past has led us to where we are now and influences our future direction. If thinking about the past leads one to change direction, then it might be a useful exercise. The problem lies in regretting the past, but making no effort to transform in the present moment to change the direction. If regret leads to changing the course of ones action towards a more positive outcome, that can be useful.

    It is not merely about living in the moment, but about the present moment being the all-encompassing link between past and future. There is only the now, it is all we have. But it is a motion, not a frozen moment. We can influence the direction of that motion.

  2. Unlike most people, I don't spend a lot of time looking back.

    This would explain why you make so many mistakes in your life - you fail to learn from the mistakes of the past.

  3. we can only exist in the present moment. it is the only time we have interaction with this world. we are present moment beings or nuthing at all. we lern from the past and that changes our future, but we need to do it in a natural way, what ever we need the right thought deed or action will be there when we need it.

  4. it is always the eternal now!


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