Out of the blue, you receive an invitation to one of your eccentric friend’s houses for dinner. On your arrival, they pour you a drink and insist that before you settle down for the evening, they would like to show you the latest project they’ve been working on in their spare time. They invite you to follow them to the garden shed where a strange contraption sits in the middle of the floor, the most striking features of which are a large, comfortable, armchair, which sits before a prominent LED display bearing today’s date and surrounded by a collection of brass levers.
In breathless excitement, your friend tells you they’ve invented a time machine and, flushed with success, they invite you to give it a spin.
Sceptical, but nonetheless intrigued, you take seat and ponder the display in front of you…
Well, given that opportunity, when would you go?
Most of us, I think, would automatically respond by picking some significant historical event to see unfold, for real, in front of their eyes. Maybe you’d choose to be peering from behind a tree at the garden tomb; loiter around the grassy knoll; or perhaps you’d be at the side of the road in Sarajevo, desperately trying to flag down the Archduke?
Some would rather hit the fast forward button and head off to the future – perhaps just a week or so, to grab the weekend’s lottery numbers, or maybe take a journey of enlightenment and learning to discover humankind’s ultimate destiny?
But – if we were allowed to think about it just a little longer – the chances are that many of us would forgo the allure of any of the above and take a more personal journey, a journey back to a point in our own lives when a stupid mistake, a bad decision, a foolish lie, or the wrong word served to royally screw up the course of our timeline in monumental fashion. Those moments, when if only we knew what the future would bring, we would have held our tongue, done or said something entirely different. Those ‘if only…’ moments that reverberate throughout the rest of our lives. The opportunity to do the right thing only tends to come once, and if we get it wrong there are rarely any second chances to undo the past.
A simple example – there’s something I should have said to someone in RL recently. What I had to say would, no doubt, have been upsetting and difficult for both of us, but it really needed to be said, however the ‘right moment’ didn’t present itself – they never do, do they? Subsequently, there have been at least three other occasions when I really should have done the right thing and said what needs to be said, and on each and every occasion, I’ve bottled out of it, and each and every instance has served to make what I have to say even more difficult, and ultimately far more challenging and potentially upsetting. I have two choices: Say nothing, or bite the bullet. Only one of those is really an option, and it’s going to be far more difficult to deal with it now, than if I’d spoken out when I first had the opportunity. Oh, what would I do for a time machine right now! Anyway, enough of my problems – time machines are still the stuff of science fiction and they’re no substitute for integrity and balls anyway.
The past is a funny old place – how we view the past is often very much tinted by our perception of how we experienced it. Two people who experienced the same event together, may remember it very differently – it may have been the best moment in one person’s life, whilst the other may recall it as an unmitigated disaster. The way in which we view our past can be extremely subjective and with relatively little in the way of objective accounts – other than the odd photograph or written account, our memories can choose to put whatever slant on it they wish.
Unlike the real world, SL stores the past in a much more objective manner. Those ancient LMs and notecards cluttering up our inventories are a concrete record of places and activities that may once have formed part of our regular inworld routine but have now fallen by the wayside; folders full of clothing that we wouldn’t be seen dead in now, clearly reflect our tastes, habits and activities of the past and, of course, there are those chat logs…
I’ve assiduously recorded inworld chat and retained my logs ever since I discovered they could be kept – sadly that was several months after I joined up, so my earliest memories are just that – memories – but from mid 2010 onwards, I have an almost complete record of every conversation I’ve been involved in, and although I don’t routinely revisit them, I’ll occasionally dip in to find the origins of a particular gesture, recall a conversation I know once took place, or find out the first occasion I spoke to a particular person. Once opened, however, I find myself drawn back into the days of my SL past, fascinated by the discussions and exchanges that I’ve been party to over the years.
Those logs hold the voices of people who may have left SL long ago; they hold a blow-by-blow account of the great times and the not so good times; and, like a time machine, they offer a window into the past that clearly reveals the mistakes and misadventures that I’ve been part of – although sadly, unlike owning a time machine, there’s not much I can do about them now.
And perhaps that’s a lesson that holds true in both worlds – we really can’t change the past, no matter how recent it may be, but we do have the opportunity to do things right the first time around, even if it’s difficult, challenging and may ultimately be painful, sometimes that’s what it’s going to cost, if you want to avoid bigger problems in the future.
I just wish it was a lesson I could learn myself!
All those simple thoughts all those peaceful dreams,
Share the space with a hard worked, hard worked day
But it’s the little things, the little things not expectation
That make life worth living, worth living.
JJ Grey & Mofro – The Sun Is Shining Down