Hmmm…. Time Travel? Maybe, I suppose. I recall a strange video clip in which Steven Hawking throws a Time Travelers’ Party. He sends an invitation for a fancy soiree, holds the event, and sets the scene where future folk will find a welcome reception at specific coordinates in the past, should they find the means to get there.
Then, there’s the Baby and Bird pub in Oxford, England, where the famed Inklings writers convened to share manuscripts. There was a curious tile in the wall of one of the more private rooms, wherein, while drinking my Pimm’s Cup, I was told by some cat playing cards that Tolkien, Lewis, and company made a pact to use that tile as a sort of gathering horcrux, if they discovered they could get meet up again after crossing into the world beyond. I can imagine that conversation among pipe-smoking guys in tweed, very seriously stacking their hands together, imbuing their spirits into a piece of decorative ceramic. I hope it is a true story. I’ve heard enough Brian Greene to appreciate theoretically how perhaps skipping ahead to the future is possible.
My greatest sympathy, though, for the time theorists goes to my old professor, who used to pray for things to be different in his past. He said he believed God could change anything. I thought it was eccentric, and I sort of think he was praying for particular events and things to actually have been different. I admit, his level of specificity is hard for me to brook, but the concept makes a measure of sense when I consider that a person’s past is still actively present in her or his personhood insofar as we are constantly remembering, revaluing, and reintegrating ourselves in one way or another.
From a transcendental personal perspective, things that are decades old condition certain meanings, values, and tolerances in the present self. I have lunch with a friend every couple of months, and there is a never a visit that goes by in which she does not recount and somehow integrate the experience of having a gun pointed at her head. Our stories, especially how we re-member them, great and small, live on in us. It occurs to me even as I write that our conditioning is not even our own exclusively; we carry legacies of the human and cultural past in our embodied presents. And, we presume the future every time we make a promise.
I am reminded of St. Augustine here and largely persuaded to appreciate the value of recognizing something like a perpetual NOW:
We could not measure things that do not exist, and things past and future do not exist (…). Therefore, from what is not yet (future) through what has no length (present), it passes into what is no longer (past). But what do we measure, unless it is a time of some length? For we cannot speak of single, and double, and triple, and equal, and all the other ways we speak of time, except of the lengths of the periods of time. But in what ‘length’ then do we measure passing time? … From this it appears to me that time is nothing other than extendedness; but extendedness of what I do not know. This is a marvel to me. The extendedness may be of the mind itself.
As a child of the 1970s, I am aware that it is not unusual for me to consider extraordinary visions of the scientific-fictive-explorative-imaginative-time-bending as also part of the normative. After all, kids of my era were reared on Star Wars, Star Trek paradoxes, the creepy tension between Dr. Smith, Will, and the Robinson Robot. I mean, really, my God, in a single year (1983), kids my age got the discovery of the AIDS virus, Reagan’s Star Wars Initiative; the traumatic visioning of nuclear aftermath in The Day After; the strange eroticism of alien-human-meal-time sex in V: The Original Miniseries, and Mr. Roboto. “Lawdy Mercy,” as my grandma would say!
In the spirit of all time-travelers: Tolkien, Augustine, Rodenberry, Professor X, et al., I want to address myself and my peers in the past. Maybe they will hear me. In any case, for myself, in the present, it is kind of important.
Dear Kids of the 70s, Especially You, Natalie,
I don’t know how many times I will be able to write you. There’s so much to say, but I want to tell you a few very important things that might help you take better care of yourself now and for your future.
First, they’re not going to blow you up, at least not yet. You do not have to hide under your desk. Please don’t watch those miniseries programs. They are bad for your mind. They give you nightmares and make you feel arrested about the value of doing anything. They will one day call you all Generation X and describe you as lazy and unproductive. Stand up for yourselves when they do. You can even tell them… just say these words…”hash tag middle finger.” You can avoid some of this by avoiding their drama in all its forms.
Also, please avoid too much MTv. I know I sound kind of like an old fogey now, but, I am you, just a little bit older, so hear me out. There are all these bands and songs out there, these 80s hair-bands, with videos of women writhing around on car tops in nighties with giant hair. It looks impressive, but it isn’t. It is very sexual and devil-may-care, but don’t be taken in. They are using really base marketing techniques to get your attention. Those guys are abusive to women, and those women are not liberated. They are being used. Don’t be those guys; don’t be those girls. You don’t need to treat your bodies like crap. Like I said, you’re going to live. They don’t actually manage to blow you up, so take better care of your bodies and be genuine when you touch other people with them.
Joe Camel… he’s an asshole. Enough said. Creeps are marketing stuff to you that will make you sick. They started planning for it when you were in your mother’s wombs. No joke. There’s a whole Evil Empire out there – Corporate America – and specialists look for ways to sell you garbage, literal garbage, that makes your body ill and eventually turns the land to garbage with toxic garbage dumps where all the garbage they sell you goes. You are being cultivated to consume, to buy, and to use stuff that makes you sick, that you can’t afford, that will keep you in debt. It is another kind of slavery. Do not give them your money.
AIDS. Sex. Oh, Lord, you precious people. I don’t even know what to say. I know adults have you believing everyone is just going to automatically get AIDS and die. They have royally freaked you out. But, they barely know what they are talking about. It isn’t a sin. You won’t get it if someone breathes on you. The people who are sick really do need help, and medical researchers will come up with better treatments in time. Right now, people are talking out of prejudice and fear, and they give you really mixed messages about sex in general. Just, mmmm, maybe wait on it. Or, at least know, they aren’t going to blow you up. You can quit trying to figure out your sex-before-nuclear-holocaust plan. And, also, heads-up, just be careful with Madonna’s virgin shtick.
Finally, I know your parents are all getting divorced and remarried. If you feel like no one thought about you in the process, you are correct. They didn’t. They actually didn’t when they changed the laws that made it possible for people to divorce more easily. I wish I could recommend some good grown-up resource person to turn to, but I actually have to tell you to be careful of them all. Guidance counselors, teachers, preachers, parents. Everyone is a little sick right now, and I am not sure you are going to get much help from them because they are pretty much as lost as you sometimes feel.
My advice, it is kind of simple – go outside and stay outside. By the time you are older, all the T.V. and media you have watched over the years will have you terrified that if you walk outside someone is going to murder you, steal you, or worse. But you can avoid so much of it if you can just go back to the Earth. Sit on the grass like you love to do. Take a bunch of blankets and stay warm under the stars. Kiss someone you love. Don’t do anything else, just appreciate a kiss. Write a poem about it. Keep your poems for when you are older.
Natalie, especially you, don’t burn your journals. You will want them one day. And, limit all that garbage you are being told to consume. It will invade your imagination, take up residence, distract you from your own mind and body, condition your relationships, and make you feel fear. Just turn it off and tell it no. This is a good Earth. You can be out in it. It is solid and will hold you. You can play here. You can love here. Keep it, and keep yourself. You have a while to live.
Oh, yeah, one last thing, very important. You are loved. You will be forgiven by your future selves, just as they will need your forgiveness. They remember what you went through, and they are trying to make things right.
Natalie Kertes Weaver, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Natalie’s academic books include: Marriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009); Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2012); and The Theology of Suffering and Death: An Introduction for Caregivers (Routledge, 2013). Natalie’s most recent book is Made in the Image of God: Intersex and the Revisioning of Theological Anthropology (Wipf & Stock, 2014). Natalie has also authored two art books: Interior Design: Rooms of a Half-Life and Baby’s First Latin. Natalie’s areas of interest and expertise include: feminist theology; theology of suffering; theology of the family; religion and violence; and (inter)sex and theology. Natalie is a married mother of two sons, Valentine and Nathan. For pleasure, Natalie studies classical Hebrew, poetry, piano, and voice.