Most of us go through our lives believing that what we are doing is, in one way or another, quite sensible. We all have doubts, sometimes looking to the past, imagining how the course of our lives, with just one subtle change in one particular instant, might alter the very substance, character, and quality of the situation we inhabit so immediately and tangibly in our present.
If we are able to momentarily still the many and varied forces that bind us within our current situation and our understanding of that situation, we can sometimes regress within our minds to a time before we possessed the knowledge, experience, and wisdom and even prejudices we currently hold.
In this previous time we had no knowledge of what would become of us as our lives unfolded. Our earlier years gave us no access to information that had not yet come to pass, just as today knowledge with certainty of events and circumstances that will shape our every moment is hidden to us. Whether or not the possibility to access this information even exists is unknown, yet it is by no means an impossibility, within both the realms of metaphysics and science.
As we all walk around within this vast and complicated world, who among us does not, from time to time, imagine what their lives might be if they could change just one key decision made, or focus more of their effort upon just one aspect of their life that might have resulted in an utterly different and better life today?
But more subtly, can we remember exactly what was important to us in those earlier times? Can we remember what we knew and did not know? Do we remember what we felt about an issue that was dear to us? Were we naÃ¯f? Were we too cynical? Were we too cocky and confident with no justification? Were we overly consumed with a narrow purpose that would cause us regrets in the future?
We are each altered as we move through time and space. The experience of interacting with all that is around us transforms us in ways that are dependent not only upon the raw force and intensity of the external occurrence, but also the internal landscape within each of us comprised of our knowledge, education, beliefs, prejudices, instincts, and raw feelings.
This is no new thing. It has been the subject of philosophical discourse in one form or another for centuries — each discourse being measured by the degree of scientific understanding present at the time.
Knowledge can blind as easily as it liberates. Psychology, Theology, and the grand halls of Science itself often forget they are disciplines and processes founded upon Philosophy. Philosophy is the root and philosophy is the core of all and any things that can be stated with any degree of certainty or posited for discussion. Abstract processes that exist in the universe may exist independently of us, but our understanding of these processes will always depend upon the very human discourse of philosophy.
Our understanding of god or spirituality is as different today as our understanding of our place upon a sphere that careens through the cosmos differs from the earth being the center of the universe. We have gained knowledge and understanding that has forced us to reinterpret the very basis of what we hold true.
It is strange, thinking that we know where we stand, knowing also the inevitability of learning in the future that we are not quite right. This is not a paradox. It is one of the few notions safe to adopt as a truism when all the world is change. For many the prospect is terrifying. For others, it is the only hope. For most, the oblivion of distraction prevails, and therefore the issue does not exist.
Some time ago Andy met a man named Mark and found that he liked him very much. Luckily, the feeling was mutual. Both men are good looking, white, and from “good stock”. Neither man experienced prejudice from society to the degree possible by others not lucky enough to share their more “acceptable” societal qualities. They are gay men having to live in a world where a very large number of people hate them without even knowing them and believe that these men are lesser somehow than themselves.
But this is OK for Andy and Mark. They can live with that. Mark has just finished school to become a doctor. Andy does very well in the information systems industry. They both go to the gym, have a large circle of friends, and just moved to Canada.
After their arrival in Canada, they began looking for a neighborhood gym. For many gay men the clichÃ© is true — the gym is the church. But these are two men who found themselves being together for a longer period of time than either truly expected, yet both likely hoped for. The gym they chose was not one of the large and popular gay spots, but was instead a smaller establishment not at all oriented toward gay clientele specifically. As a side note, I was very happy to hear this. The gym was a place where people would go to simply seriously work out.
Upon finding the gym, Andy inquired into the pricing. The gym had a special membership rate for married couples. Since Andy and Mark had been together for so long, Andy asked if he and his partner could get the couple’s rate. The muscle man at the counter (named Tony) told him no, not unless you’re married.
At first, Andy thought this muscle head Tony was being an ass. But Andy saw a sincerity in Tony’s face that gave him pause. Then it dawned on him: a man can legally be married to the man he loves in Canada. Tony was perfectly justified in denying Andy the couple’s membership — and of course he would; after all, Andy and Mark were not married.
So here we have a man, Andy, who suddenly realized he had been living, trapped in a life that denied him a fuller potential for becoming more, and even denying him the capacity to experience what life might be like were he able to have the same things — the same basic rights — that most everyone else takes for granted. He had no knowledge or sense of the scope of this limitation imposed upon him by others.
It is one thing to know you are not allowed to do something. After a while we make up reasons why we might not really want to do that thing anyway — they’re not such a big deal. Then something happens, causing us to realize just how profound one small thing can be. How a seemingly small thing has been kept from us. And even how liberating another place or another people can be with just one small difference in their understanding of life – Canadians.
This little story that Andy told me in passing stuck with me for days. How many small things to do we accept that limit us in such vast and profound ways? That limit us without even if our knowledge of the limitation?
Andy will most likely have a difficult time remembering how he previously viewed the potential of himself and the man he loves living “socially blessed” together amongst all other people in a society. In this regard, he has moved on to a new level. He was brought to this level through the collective progress of all Canadians. An he, in turn, brought me to that new level with him, as well.
The thread of his life has taken a liberating course. Of all potential possibilities, Andy becomes the Andy who can love Mark in a fuller sense in relation to the world. If this were not the case — if Canada had not evolved or these men had not moved there — another story would exist. For many, another story does indeed exist.
Doctor Ronald Mallett is studying how travel through time may be practicable. We know already it is possible to travel forward in time. We also know that theoretically it is possible to travel backward in time. Logical incongruities and paradoxes associated with backward time travel do not prohibit travel backward in time, if scientifically it is possible. Doctor Mallet wants to send information into the past. In doing so, he opens up the potential to be contacted by himself in the future the very moment he sends information backward. What manner of change lies ahead for us with such potentials looming closely, no longer entirely in the realm of science fiction?
We cannot believe in old things any more than we can believe in new things. We must believe in each other. Change is really just beginning, and excluding anyone from the greater whole that makes us all diminishes everyone. What will our future selves think of us now? Will our past or present selves even believe what are our future selves might tell us?
What regrets from consequence bind us? What hope from a nothingness might spring?
Hurray for Canada! And many thanks to Andy!
Shame for the tiny-minded bigoted. And pity for the sad self-loathing.
And most of all, fresh baked pie and a big long hug for the open minds, and the curious.