This is part of a creative series you can read about here.
What is something you want to learn but have been too afraid to try?
Of all the things I’ve always wanted to learn, backwards time travel surely tops the list. But I’m too scared to try it, largely due to an existential worry. The twentieth century French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, observed that though this time period might not be the best on in history, yet it is our time period. He meant his, of course, but the point generalizes.
Is the meaning of an individual comprised of her networked relations to others? Plausibly. To some extent, the self must be constructed in contrast to others: I am like that, but not like that, similar to him, dissimilar to her, and so on. Then, plausibly, a time belongs to one if one finds oneself situated there — that is, socially speaking.
But to travel to the past, well, that would be to become un-situated, as with how Vonnegut describes Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five as having come “unstuck” in time. It would be a kind of strict loss of self, because the self as such can only be made up out of intersections. To stray too far off of the time stream would mean certain insanity, as the self is dissolved into novel colloquialism, grammar, humor, social reference, social station, dress, friendly relations, sexual relations, and temporal self-conception.
In short, I fear learning backwards time travel would never be worth the journey, since I would probably not survive it.
Although, just tomorrow, a friend of mine will say that I feel this way now only because, when it comes to the unfortunate side affects of time travel, that has been my experience so far….