Last weekend, my cousin Rocky, who got engaged the night before Collin and I did (totally stealing our thunder), told me about his experience at the marriage-planning retreat mandated by their church. He summarized it thusly: “You know the five biggest fights you and Collin have, that you go back to time and again? Imagine filling out worksheets about them and then having each of the fights, back-to-back, all weekend long.”
So of course I DID imagine that. But if I think about it honestly,1 I doubt Collin and I would make it through all of our top five fights. We’d never reach how I load the dishwasher, or how he really needs to keep his dirty running clothes separate from the rest of the laundry, or what the fastest way to get from our neighborhood to Shadyside is.2
Because we’d never get past our ongoing fight about time travel.
I cut my teeth on time travel narratives through Quantum Leap and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Quantum Leap taught me that time is like a belt. It’s a straight line, but you can bend it to get from one point to another. T2 taught me that if you go back in time and change something, you can make a new future.
Then at some point I saw the original Terminator, and found out that John Connor sent his own father back from the future to conceive him. Which hurt my brain. And then in T2 they ostensibly fix the future, but John Connor still exists. So I figured that they didn’t really fix the future. [I guess the writers of the so-bad-it's-good Terminator 3 and the so-bad-it's-unwatchable Terminator Salvation figured the same thing.]
My dad, however, explained to me that despite the ability to change the future through time travel, you can’t change the past from the present. So, in 1995, when the events of T2 take place, the past that involves John Connor being conceived by Sarah Connor and time-traveling Kyle Reese have already happened. So even though the future where John Connor and Kyle Reese fight a war together and Kyle Reese gets sent back in time will never happen, Kyle Reese has already been to 1984 and John Connor has been conceived and born. Now he gets to live a normal life of whatever kind of mediocre crap a would-be-savior of humanity does when he averts the need to save humanity by melting his robot best friend. [Just pretend the next two movies never happened. You'll be happier. (I can't speak for the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, because I never watched it.)]
To which Collin replies, “Back off, man, I’m a scientist.” (Even though he’s a BIOLOGIST) He learned his time travel theory from science instead of movies. Ick!3 So Collin thinks that all time is happening simultaneously, like a huge collage of photographs (think about the visual that pops up when you fast forward or rewind on Netflix Watch Instantly). Jumping from one point in time photograph to another doesn’t mean you can change anything. Everything that has happened and will happen already exists, including any extra-chronological jaunts an individual may make. So there is no changing anything. Rewinding to the beginning of the movie doesn’t change the end.
This theory is a nice little workaround for time travel paradoxes, but is also BORING AS JAIL. Plus, it makes free will an illusion, which is an abyss with which I refuse to get into a staring contest.
This is a really terrible fight for a couple to have over and over again. It may well doom our relationship. First, because there is no right answer. We’re not theoretical physicists, and even theoretical physicists don’t actually know how time travel works. Second, because it brings in cherished childhood memories, like T2, and Back to the Future. (Yes, my cherished childhood memories are movies. Don’t you judge me.) Third, neither of us have any idea what we are talking about. Like I said, we are in no way experts on theoretical physics. This means we not only can’t agree with each other, we often have trouble agreeing with ourselves.
Trust me when I say that any fight that involves discussion of the plot of the movie Primer needs to be avoided. You might be able to make it out without breaking up. You won’t be able to make it out without a headache.
1Or not even remotely honestly. This is totally not one of those, “Our relationship is superfly and you should probably be worried about how yours can’t possibly match up. Collin is my BEST FRIEND and my SOUL MATE and DIVORCE RATE SCHMIVORCE RATE we are MADE FOR EACH OTHER!” posts. Because those posts make me gag.
2Incidentally, Collin clocked it on his Garmin watch this morning and I was EM-EFFIN R-I-G-H-T. (Pittsburghers: it’s the “Batman Route” that shoots you out on Neville).
3This is another exaggeration for the sake of comedy. Collin doesn’t want you to think he’s arrogant. He isn’t, also. I mostly wrote that this way for the sake of Ghostbusters references.