beginnings, middles, and ends
by Andrea Elizabeth
(Superfluous opening statement) The idea of time travel is so intriguing that it captivates many plot-lines such as H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. More recently it is taken up in movies such as the 1978 Superman and J.J. Abrams’s re-imagining of Star Trek. In many stories, the question burns: can you change the present?
In Back to the Future you can. Its mechanism is alternate possible universes spun into motion by each decision, and so you can go back and make different decisions and produce different outcomes. Very anti-fate. In other stories, which I can’t remember offhand, fate reigns supreme and all attempts to alter outcomes fail.
Interstellar has a unique, as far as I know at this juncture, take on this question. *spoiler alert* In it future beings can assist present beings to make a better future possible. It’s about altering the future instead of the present. Well in a sequel of BTtF I think they failed to fix the glitch caused by going back and had an undesirable future. So the point of time travel became the It’s a Wonderful Life moment where it was all about making Marty appreciate his uninterrupted present life. Don’t mess with fate – compatibalism? You can, but you’ll regret it.
In Interstellar, the undesirable future is speculated on and doesn’t occur, unless the black hole actually killed Cooper and it is really an afterlife story. Still, there is no alteration of what occurs. The future adds to the present (and past) and doesn’t take away from it.
(obligatory transition statement) The idea of changing the past can also be applied to Christian realities.
One view of repentance is that it can somehow take away past sin. I think this is done in a non-fatalistic way more like Interstellar than Back to the Future. My proof is that Christ’s resurrected body retained his nail-scars. He overcame the effects of sin by his resurrection, but his past suffering was not erased. Our resurrected bodies are timeless possibly in that they can time travel, such as Christ’s bodily epiphany to Joshua by the Jordan. But did he have nail-scarred hands? Regardless, he always appeared to Joshua at that time, even if he was from the future, or outside time.
(reluctant wrap-up) The point of locus is different in Back to the Future and Interstellar and heaven. The first’s is the present, the second is awareness of the future and things simultaneously far away but beyond our reach, and overcoming that gap. It is still trying to preserve happiness in the present life, however, even if it isn’t reached until old age. Heaven transcends time altogether, but there are still pivotal moments of decision, such as Christ’s in Gethsemane, and baptism, and then every second staying in that moment.