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Time traveler

March 22, 2008

My good bestest type friend Debbi has been bugging me to read The Time Travelers Wife which I have finally done. Although I don’t share her enthusiasm for the book I did find the premise interesting and now I am reminded of some of its recurring themes.

The main character, if you are not familiar, is a guy who is genetically made to travel back and forth in time. While he travels he learns about much of his life in the future and relieves his past over and over. He watches his mother be decapitated in a car crash they were in together when he was six and is powerless to change fate. He watches an ex-girlfriendĀ  commit suicide even though he is there with her and tries to talk her out of it. Forced to participate as an observer only Henry is powerless to change the course of events and must watch his mistakes and misfortune as well as his triumphs and good times.

I know Debbi and her Miss Melma adore the love story but I didn’t really see it like that. I saw this guy who falls in love with someone and lives this life and is doomed to relive certain times for undetermined periods of time at the whim of his genetic make-up. The love story is sort of secondary to me and his time travel is the main relationship he has in the book.

Some people may know that I have wished for a time machine much of my life and envied the character Henry’s dilemma often until I finished the book and thought about what it really means to revisit your past and the fact that just because you are there reliving it does not mean you could change the course of events.

I am a determinist in many ways and feel that many aspects of ones life are determined by the randomness of being and are subject to the whims and choices of others as well as yourself. While I feel I have the power to make choices in my life I don’t really feel like I get to pick the choices all the time. I am not the Captain of my fate but more like a willing passenger knowingly buying tickets to travel and move about but the itinerary is dictated to me at certain points. Like I had a child 7ish years ago and that was a choice but then much of what I choose to do now is not really just my own choice. Kant might argue that I am doing precisely what I wish because you don’t ever do anything that you don’t really want to do but I think I have the choice to put someone else ahead of me, in this case my child, and I choose things that benefit him more directly than myself. I like this quote, “free will is at right angles to the situation it’s controlling. If you’re biased one way or the other, you can’t be free. “

So long windedly and probably circularly and unclearly I feel all clangy in my head again. I don’t know if revisiting your past brings out good things in yourself or the experience. I don’t like what is reflected back in the memory or what I feel like I become. Looking back makes me feel bad for the girl I was and question every choice I made. Scrutinizing the motives like Sherlock Holmes and his magnifying glass every instance looks distorted and badly shaped. I feel naked and stupid and pointless. I think maybe I am just reliving my inner thoughts from the past when I was too immature and frightened to think of them at the time. I feel like I must have acted as a teenager. Needy, vulnerable, easily charmed and clingy. I don’t see or remember anything of meaning or purpose and I wish I could. I don’t mean in others but in myself.

Its like looking into a secret mirror that you keep in a box, wrapped and hidden in your attic. Accidentally it is opened and the mirror revealed as well as the reflected image. One your forgot about and one your never thought about while you were living it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. joefelso permalink
    April 5, 2008 3:48 pm

    I don’t know if I really liked this book, but I really liked its uncompromising vision of time travel. The deadly paradox of the time travel you see in most books and movies is that if you do go back and fix things, later there’s no reason for you to go back in the first place. So are things unfixed again? It was nice to read a time traveling book that’s about memory instead of repair.New

    Plus, the main character worked at the Newberry Library, which is right down the street from where I work.

    Personally, I just think, if we COULD, we WOULD revisit the past– even if we couldn’t change it…just the way we remember despite ourselves. Something has to step in–like your brain blocking out traumatic memories–to keep us from it.

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