It’s about time

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By NICK THOMAS

Time. It’s a constant and inescapable factor in human destiny for paupers, pop stars, and presidents alike. And if you listened to speakers at the recent Republican National Convention, they were convinced that it will run out for Mr. Obama in November.

But with the exception of Clint Eastwood’s delightful, rambling speech at the RNC (which you could argue was good, bad, or just plain ugly), I could only endure the briefest viewing of this year’s broadcast.

Nor was I expecting anything less partisan at the subsequent Democratic National Convention, with speakers urging voters to give the president more time to complete his agenda.

In fact, within moments of watching most of the keynote speakers, I found myself wishing I could go back in time to reclaim those lost minutes and replace them with a more enjoyable activity, like a colonoscopy. At least I would be anesthetized during the colonoscopy.

But my gastroenterologist was too busy to oblige during the Republican convention and was fully booked up when the Democrats took the stage. So, I decided to watch another work of fanciful fiction with a far-fetched script which, coincidently, featured a main character who called himself “Clint Eastwood”: the popular 1985 science fiction film about time travel, “Back to the Future.”

It begins with Doc Brown, who demonstrated the possibility of time travel after strapping Einstein (his dog) into a DeLorean and sending him forward one minute into the future.

It got me thinking about time travel, Einstein (the physicist), and our political leaders.

I’m not sure Einstein (the physicist) would have enjoyed this excursion into fantasy (the movie, not the political conventions).  Decades before time travel themes hit Hollywood, the 20th century’s greatest scientist had argued that it was merely a 4th dimensional flight of science fiction fancy.

Einstein (the physicist) might have reasoned it this way today:

“Suppose Einstein (the movie dog) went back in time and chased the past Einstein (the dog) in front of a bus. How then, could the past Einstein (the dog, now deceased) exist in the future to return to the past?”

Such temporal leaps along these time lines have always led to a paradox—or in this case, a “pair-a-dogs” —giving hopeful time travelers a headache of galactic proportions.

Time travel advocates sometimes counter the above argument by proposing the existence of an infinite number of near identical parallel universes – those fanciful saviors of numerous sci-fi tales – which they claim would eliminate the paradoxes.

In such a reality, the existence of an infinite number of Einsteins (both dog and physicist) jumping between an infinite number of universes could, they say, give time travel credence.

But the concept of parallel universes also creates a horror of unparalleled cosmic proportions: an infinite number of Romeys sparring with an infinite number of Obamas, both annoying an infinite number of voters with their infinite political spin. Surely the laws of physics would never permit such a reality to exist in more than one universe.

Nevertheless, the concept of time travel remains fascinating. And if ever given the opportunity, who wouldn’t be tempted to travel back in time and undo the mischiefs of our past?  For politicians especially, a quick retrograde spin to earlier days to rewrite their past (and hence future) in a more favorable light would be irresistible.

Armed with a pocket dictionary, wouldn’t Dan “Spudman” Quayle gladly step back to 1992 to reverse the stigma of forever being labeled lexicographically challenged? And you know Bill Clinton would love to return to 1995 and tell Monica: “Sorry honey, the internship job is taken.”

As for Mitt Romney, he’d probably like a second chance to more forcefully challenge his Republican presidential debate rivals and Democratic opponents when they questioned his extreme wealth: “I’m just richer than you all; get over it!”

And what might Mr. Obama go back and undo? Reluctant to admit failing at anything during his first term, perhaps he would chose a different VP – one who wasn’t just Biden his time.

Maybe I’ve just totally fluxed my capacitor, but it’s looking like the laws of nature will permit the existence of time travel long before we can ever find a true statesman to elect as a modern, bipartisan president. It’s about time we did.

(Nick Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 200 magazines and newspapers. Reach him at alongtheselines@yahoo.com.)

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