From the time my teacher read us Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, I’ve been spellbound by the concept of time travel. Not only did my eleven-year-old self find the idea enticing, I wanted to do it. Every day. Then. Now. And forever.
H.G. Wells’ book The Time Machine introduced a possible means. How cool would it be to climb into a machine, select a specific moment in time, pull a lever, and—whoosh—arrive there in the beat of a hummingbird’s wing?
Revisit the past or zoom ahead in time?
In childhood, I sometimes imagined my sandals slapping against a well-worn path in the jungle as I carried water to our family’s hut in seventeenth century Cameroon. (I never set limits for time or place in my day dreams.) Other times, I’d be suctioned along tunnels through space to planets in other galaxies. These future cities were filled with glass skyscrapers ringed by metal landing ports for personal space shuttles.
Later, I became addicted to anything written by Rod Serling. He often fooled with folding time and space in on itself for the plots of his “Twilight Zone” television series. I remember one simple story where a young brother and sister escaped their bickering parents through the bottom of their modern-day swimming pool. They resurfaced in a pond one hundred years in the past. They’d entered a simpler era when collecting enough apples for a pie was the toughest assignment any child faced.
How does time travel work?
I want to understand it all. No matter how many books, movies, and discussions I have, I can never pin down answers to important questions.
If I travel back in time, could I meet my mom when she was a teenager like Marty McFly did in “Back to the Future?” Could I stay long enough to convince her never to smoke cigarettes?
Could I leave a letter for my future parents? Could it include a financial tip like one character gives to another in the movie, “Frequency?” The police officer, played by dreamy Jim Caviezel, instructs his 10-year-old childhood buddy to remember the key word “Yahoo.”
Better that I travel further back to leave a note for my parents urging them to buy Berkshire Hathaway stock when the price per share is less than the cost of a new car. It’s doable, right?
I’m not the only person fascinated by the topic. Hollywood has made numerous movie versions of Wells’ story. My favorite is the 1960 film with Rod Taylor playing the lead. Running second is 2002’s adaptation starring Guy Pearce, because of his romantic motivation for using the machine. I didn’t care much for the 1979 version, “Time After Time.” The premise of Jack the Ripper skipping through time to escape capture was too dark.
I liked how Robert Zemeckis changed the traditional mode of transportation to a DeLorean in “Back to the Future.” I thought 2004’s “Hot Tub Time Machine” took things too far. That version was crass. I’d buy a ticket to see the star, John Cusack, read a grocery list, but I wouldn’t recommend this movie.
Why Make the Quantum Leap?
In 1966, there was a short-lived television series called “The Time Tunnel.” The pilot episode sent the heroes back to April 14, 1912 to try to prevent the sinking of the Titanic. They failed. Of course.
Why don’t writers understand plots that use time travel to change catastrophic past events don’t work? Why do they fail? Because the audience knows the ending! If the writer changes an infamous, historical event so the mission succeeds, the audience will heave the book or DVD against a wall. No hero, no matter how powerful, is going to save Lincoln, JFK, or prevent the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At least, not in my lifetime. Unless….???
I especially like movies where a time shift happens in the name of love—like in “Kate and Leopold,” “Somewhere in Time,” “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and “The Lake House.” What do the poets say? Love transcends time. I believe it.
“Groundhog Day” gives its main character all the time he needs to change from an egotistical jerk to a likable hero, deserving of love. The movie’s writer/director, Harold Ramis, believes Bill Murray’s character is stuck in Punxsutawney between ten and forty years, although if you count (and I’ve tried) February 2 repeats 34 times on screen. Yet, it would take several years to reach mastery of the piano and befriend all the town residents. Phil accomplished both feats by the end of the movie.
The Language of Spirit Conference
In August 2010, I attended a three-day Time Travel conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was hosted by members of the Navajo Nation. I went because I wanted to learn how to shuttle through centuries without using a special machine. I expected to gain insight into the Native culture. I hoped I’d hear stories of shape shifting, as well.
The 12th Annual International Language of Spirit Conference was amazing in all aspects. Leroy Little Bear, former director of Native studies at Harvard, facilitated. The Inner Circle (the speakers) was comprised of over two dozen Native American elders, theoretical physicists, and linguists. They engaged in deep dialogue about many underlying principles of Time, not from an adversarial point of view, but out of mutual respect.
I joined over seventy other meeting participants in the Outer Circle. Our role was to listen and learn. Over the three-day conference, less than six members of the Outer Circle were invited to ask a question. Their participation was restricted to a special dialogue session.
I’d be lying if I said I understood or remember even half of what the physicists said about Newtonian, relativity, quantum, or string theories as they relate to Time. I’m probably demonstrating my profound ignorance just trying to explain the scientists’ efforts.
I fared better understanding what the linguists said, since they discussed how the syntax of our grammar still demands beginnings, middles, and ends in our communications and that process significantly influences (limits) our perception of Time.
I learned that for Indigenous societies, bi-location, teleportation, shape shifting, and time travel are not only possible; they were once considered commonplace. These experiences are sacred in the Native culture, and vivid details of those occurrences are rarely shared.
I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the conference format. I’d hoped for a reality show, “tell-all” forum, but only one Native person talked about traveling back in time to a previous life, and how in doing so, she’d relived a harrowing event on the prairie. She spoke of the incident with profound reverence and gratitude.
A Kindred Spirit
Cynthia Sue Larson, a physicist and intuitive life coach, (also from the Inner Circle) detailed a visit she once had from her future self. Cynthia is one of the main reasons I had decided to attend the conference. I’ve been following her work for many years through her newsletter, found at RealityShifters.com. My discussions with her over breakfast and at breaks were so insightful. Meeting her made the trip a complete success for me. It was a great pleasure talking with her. She is the gentle, down-to-earth, enlightened soul I’ve always imagined she would be.
If only I could truly master time travel, I’d return over and over again to August 2010 to re-experience the three-day Language of Spirit Conference. I’d listen more intently, each time soaking in more scientific information and more understanding of Native culture.
And I would write down Leroy Little Bear’s jokes. I could fill an entire blog with his subtle humor.
Let’s Start a Discussion
Tell me –Where and when would you travel in your Time Machine?
Here is Cynthia’s blog about meeting her future self.
You can learn more about the this year’s Language of Spirit Conference at the following link.
Let the chills run through you as you listen to the opening of the “Twilight Zone.”