The Time-Traveler’s Dilemma

Any movie or book featuring time traveling can be summed up in three acts.

Act I: Wow, time traveling. We can go to any time! Any decade! Let’s go meet a famous person! (Which inevitably leads to…)

Act II: No, wait. We need to be smart about this. We need to go back in time and fix history so that we can have a totally awesome future. Nothing huge, just a small alteration…like, let’s kill hitler. Or better yet, why don’t we stop countries from ever being created in the first place? (And then…)

Act III: No! We wanted to stop a thing from happening, but it happened anyway! Somehow Hitler still found a way!

Fin. 

And although it is sad that I can predict the entire plot of a movie or book before seeing or reading it, this idea is sort of inspirational. It can be summed up into: “Maybe if we’re really meant to do something, it will happen, no matter what.”

Which sort of gets me thinking about the alternative: what if famous people in history didn’t do what they were on track to do? What if they failed or gave up? What if the time travelers succeeded and stopped them?

And sure, that would obviously be the best case scenario for WWII, but what would happen to the benevolent artists and creators in the world? What if J.R.R. Tolkien never wrote The Lord of the Rings? What if van Gogh died before “Starry Night”? What if Nabisco decided the world wasn’t ready for the oreo?

It’s frankly a scary thought. Because these things have changed lives, encouraged creative thought and late night snacking the world over. I, personally, wouldn’t be the woman I am today without many of the masterpieces I know and love (I would also be about 10-15 lbs lighter without oreos.) But really, what would happen if these people just decided to give up because the going got too tough? Sometimes you don’t need a time traveler to make you think that you may be making the wrong decision for your future. I’m sure at some point, famous earth-shakers had doubts.

But, you see, everything is a domino effect. There is no decision in the universe that stands on its own. It is because a star is twinkling in deep outer space that a poet dreams, and when a poet dreams, a high school lit teacher is inspired to teach his or her students, and a student suddenly wants to look up at the night sky. There will always be repercussions and consequences to every action, but there are some things that are too good to live without.

So, the next time you feel that it would be easier to give in and give up, think about the time traveler’s dilemma: if it is meant to happen, it will happen anyway, despite and because of yours, or anyone’s, best efforts. And you never know who you may inspire as a result of it all.

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