Monday, December 10, 2007

Time and the future

Over the weekend I was having a chat with my sister and her friend, a lady who is going to edit my recently completed M/S for me. She said that she likes to open up and have a browse from anywhere in a novel before she begins to read it. And I agreed that I often do this too. I also like to skim read the last page or two to get an idea of what will happen in the story before I begin. This has several benefits to me. You get to think about the author's work with structure and plot as you read. If an "appealing" sounding character is going to be written out, you don't have to persevere until you reach the end and then get disappointed. Above all, this is my screening process to make sure that my novels are going to be optimistic and upbeat, and not bleak and hopeless.

My sister said, "You two are naughty, then. You're supposed to read straight through from the start, or you spoil the surprise." Now, as far as Agatha Christie style who-dunits are concerned, I agree with her. But I don't ever think I'll change my habit of random browsing before I begin.

Then this morning, my 9yo daughter, Emma, said to me, "I wish we could go forward in time! Then I could already be enjoying Christmas." I told her, "You'd go forward two weeks, but if I had the chance, I reckon I wouldn't mind going forward about forty or fifty years, just for a peep." If somebody could put me in their time machine and offer to show me only good aspects of the future, I'd love to see who my children are going to marry, what professions they'll choose, how many grandchildren I'll have, and where Andrew and I will be living (and if we ever manage to make a fortune somehow). Yes, it'd be very interesting to see if I'll end up being the 60 or 70 year old woman I hope to be. Then, if I like the picture, I'd happily return to Christmas 2007, to fill in the time. This is the sort of thing I do when I read a book. How frustrating that I can't do it with our real lives. We have no choice but to live them page by page, just as story characters supposedly do.

But I found a quote by Thomas Carlyle which says, "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance but to do what lies clearly at hand." I think perhaps that must be God's opinion and that must also be why He gives us our lives in little chunks of 24 hours. We're designed to live in day-long segments for a reason.

If we're interested in our futures, perhaps we just need to latch onto Scripture promises such as this one from Isaiah. "I have upheld you since you were conceived and have carried you since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you." If we really take such promises to heart, what more do we need?

When I was in my late teens and was a fairly new Christian, I'd made an appointment with a Gypsy fortune teller and after getting the jitters, decided to cancel it. This was before I'd really learned to avoid everything to do with mediums, the occult and such. Yet even now, prophetic words from people with that sort of gift and the concept of time travel in stories have always been fascinating. In 1985, I was there at the movies to watch "Back to the Future" on its first week, partly because I liked Michael J Fox and partly because the time aspect interested me. Doctor Who, Madeleine L'Engle's "Wrinkle in Time", The Amazing Mr Blunden, Playing Beatie Bow (this is actually an Aussie time travel novel about a girl who returned to Old Sydney Town in the 1800s. Has anyone else read it?), return to Camelot, it's all interesting.

I was always open to the possibility of time travel happening some day, until I heard a radio programme which flatly declared that it will always be impossible. Their reason: Nobody has ever turned up and announced that they're from the future. It made sound sense to me. But my dh and ds#1 both say that perhaps we just don't believe anyone who makes this claim, and perhaps such people as Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne had some sort of secret link to the future!

Anyway, I wonder what I would've thought of my current life (nudging 38), if I'd been given a glimpse of it in my teens. If I'd known I'd have 3 kids called Logan, Emma and Blake, if I'd known I'd move to the Adelaide Hills and marry a boy who already lived there it might've been nice. When I was 17, my sister and her new husband had just returned to Australia from England. Being city people, we caught an old classic steam train for a journey to the Hills, but it broke down at Mt. Barker and left all its passengers stranded for hours. During our walk around what seemed such a quiet, dead country town, stopping to buy fish and chips, I wouldn't have dreamed I'd ever live there! And I also would've been surprised to see the growth which has taken place in 20 years. That's the sort of thing that makes me expect that the future, whatever it holds, will be bound to contain some surprises.


  1. There is much I'd like to know about my future, but if I did I would always be afraid of doing the wrong thing and not ending up in the future I saw! Does that make any sense? I suppose it's best not to know the future, but I'd really like to travel many years into the past to get a good look at my history. I'd love to know if my family were Puritans or Druids! Wouldn't it be something to find out your background is completley different than you'd imagined?

  2. Me again. I just received your card in the mail. Thanks for thinking of us, we love the card you sent! If only we could spend Christmas on the beach like Santa and his pals on the card! Look for ours coming to your mailbox in a few days, it was sent out early last week. :-)

  3. This post was most interesting! I actually hate surprises and will turn to the end of a book before I start to read it. Drives my husband nuts! Time travel is always interesting - they do that a lot in all the Star Trek series (of which my dh is a fan) but I have never figured out how it can be done in real life. Something to do with flinging oneself around the sun, perhaps?

    I love your Mt. Barker story! God gave you a glimpse of your future and you didn't even know it! As children, both my husband and I traveled along the coast of Oregon (he remembers Astoria but I'm unsure if we went through or turned inland before getting this far). Never dreamed in a million years we'd live here. You just never know, do you? Sometimes, I close my eyes and try to picture my kids as adults, married, etc. Tonight, my son Alec said that he may have already seen his future wife and didn't know it. We all laughed because we hadn't been discussing this so he must have been thinking about this on his own. You never know!

    Thanks again for your cards. It was so fun to receive them, especially in the midst of our stressful week. Chad was especially happy about his. I told him he has something to write about, since things have been nonstop around here lately.

    My dh likes Dr. Who. We've haven't seen it for awhile. A most unusual show!

    Take care,

  4. I should really have Marina comment here. She did a lot of reading on space and time last year for physics. Maybe I'll have her do that tomorrow. For now you will have to make do with my unschooled thoughts on the matter.

    Did you ever see Meet the Robinsons? It's a very cute movie. In it, a young boy travels to the future. Without giving too much away, he learns that his future depends on the choices he makes in the past. The idea is that there is only right now. The past is written but there are many possible futures. Depending on your choices, you make different turns along the path to your future. Consider stories where the character hears their future and then tries to avoid it, but in avoiding it they run headlong into it. Their choices cause the future they are trying to avoid.
    Did that make sense?
    Peace and Laughter,

  5. LOL! I was just reading Kate's comment about her Trekkie husband. We're Star Trek fans as well. A comment of Captain Janeway's (Star Trek Voyager) came to mind regarding messing with time.
    "Temporal anomalies give me a headache."
    Peace and Laughter!