Spoiler warning: This post uses some references from TV shows and movies and might have mild spoilers. Beware. You’ve been warned.
Time travel and paradoxes are the in-thing in today’s storytelling. From fantasy shows like Game of Thrones to superhero media like The Flash and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to anime like Erased (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) to movies such as Predestination and Project Almanac, time travel has become the most used (if not overused) storytelling device. This post isn’t about time travel or influencing the past in some way (looking at you, Brandon Stark), I’ve already done that one. Rather, this post is about the idea that the past is already written, the ink is dry. This is a quote from the Game of Thrones Season 6 trailer but as the season is starting to shape up, we’re seeing more of what it actually means with respect to the show. However, this whole time travel and predestination extravaganza got me thinking about a unique possibility of our own existence in this non-fictional, real world. What if the ink is dry in the real world as well? Scary thought, right?
To put it in perspective, you’ve made choices and decisions of your own free will and you’ve reached a certain point and maybe you’re not a hundred percent happy with what you have but you’re content. Consider this now, you were meant to do all of it without you ever actually wanting to do all of it and you had no control while you thought you were the one making those choices. What if your free will just wasn’t yours? What if it was all meant to be the way it is because you’re just not significant enough on a universal perspective?
Imagine a world where, Stephen Hawking was meant to be afflicted with ALS and that if he was not, then nothing he did after ALS would have happened. Imagine, the idea that something of that magnitude had to happen for the world to get a piece of his mind in the form of his books especially A Brief History of Time. Imagine if the universe was in fact, deterministic about what happens and when it happens. It’s a radical thought, I agree but it is still a valid one.
On a personal note, I dropped out of architecture back in the winter of 2014 following a unique life-changing moment, insignificant yet life-changing. If I would not have stepped out of the hotel on my trip that morning, I would still be pursuing architecture, probably be with the same person and be living in Dehradun. So, whatever happened in my life from November 2014 to till now would just not exist. But, it didn’t happen that way. I felt an urge. Something I could not rationally comprehend at the time and I did go out of that hotel in Shimla, early in the morning and watched a sunrise with someone who kind of acted as a catalyst for a lot many things. Change of thought, rethinking of life decisions, making new decisions and so on and so my life has been divided into two segments, before that sunrise in the winter of 2014 and after that sunrise in the winter of 2014. The changes are drastic, if the two versions of me were standing side by side, you’d see the difference in the way we thought, acted, even spoke. It was deterministic or at least, that’s what I like to believe. It had to happen.
That brings me to the next point, that is, would doing something else have changed how everything happened? But that is what the idea basically is, whatever I do, I’ll make the same mistakes and I’ll somehow make the same decisions thus creating a similar set of consequences. That is kind of cynical because then a someone such as a criminal would always stay a criminal no matter what they do in their life and those who are successful would always be successful. In other words, it’s all written and the ink is dry. It’s scary but it is one set of ideology and it is as good as any other out there because we still haven’t explained time, both scientifically and philosophically.
What if the theory that time is a flat circle comes to be true? What implication would it have on your life? Rustin Cohle from True Detective says,”Time is a flat circle. Everything we have done or will do we will do over and over and over again- forever.” That is Friedrich Nietzsche’s Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence. You cannot break the loop of your own life and the universe will go about exactly as it does again and again because we look at time linearly while it is cyclic and it’s all there. There is no past, no present and no future; time is all happening all at once. That is actually the most used principle in writing or telling a story that involves tampering or dealing with time.
Imagine, wherever you are standing or sitting right now happened because you made some decisions from wearing the blue shirt this morning to not answering a simple phone call, a collective of all those small decisions somehow created the exact circumstances for you to be reading this blog post but while that is true and deterministic. The corollary to that idea would be that you were meant to do all of it to be reading this blog post. So, what came before, the decisions you made to read this blog post or you reading this blog post which required you to make a certain set of mundane decisions? Both of them are equally probable in a world where we don’t know much. Maybe the ink is indeed dry. Maybe it’s all happening in one complete grand plan. Will we ever know? That might have to do with are we meant to know and that is where all the answers we’ll ever be offered lie.
Trivia: As I was about to publish this post, I noticed that coincidentally I had written about Time Travel exactly 4 years ago i.e. May 25th, 2012.