Now Playing: Concrete and Barbed Wire, by Lucinda Williams. “This wall divides us, we’re on two different sides. But this wall is not real; how can it be real? It’s only made of concrete and barbed wire.”
Time travel has always fascinated me. I’m pretty much a sucker for any movie/television show/book about time travel. Today’s blog is the first of probably the bunch that I’ll eventually write on the topic. Just think about it. How great would it be to have the ability to go back in time and fix your mistakes before they happened – or right great wrongs. Think how much better we could make things.
Except we can’t. Not because time travel isn’t possible. I truly believe it is.
But one of the rules of time travel, as firmly planted in my psyche as the Three Laws of Robotics, is that the past can’t be changed.
That rule was firmly established in my first contact with time travel. It was in a Superboy comic book in the 1960s, one of the reprints in an 80-page Giant, I think. Those were always my favorite. You’d get eight or nine stories for a quarter. Just couldn’t beat them.
Anyway, in this one, Superboy decided to go back in time – I think it was his first trip into the past – to stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A more noble goal there could not be. I’d like to think that would have made Reconstruction a bit easier and blunted some of the lingering bad feeling between the North and South for generations.
Alas, was not to be. Superboy made it back all right on the fateful day and was going to see the President in a Washington hotel. But he got fooled by an entry on the register that said Mr. L. in some room wasn’t to be disturbed. SB thought the Mr. L was Lincoln, so he went to the door. Turns out this Mr. L was an adult Lex Luthor, who had fled into the past to escape Superman. Lex quickly pulled a chunk of Red Kryptonite, which had unpredictable effects on SB that lasted 48 hours. This unpredictable effect was paralysis. So while Lex taunted SB, even striking a match on his nose, Lincoln’s assassination proceeded on course. (One of the great touches of the story was Lex’s remorse when he figured out why Superboy had come back into the past. He considered it his worst crime.)
Once the red K wore off, SB returned to the future, where he came to the reluctant conclusion that the past was the past – never to be changed. Too much inertia to overcome in the time stream. So that’s what I believe, too.
The past is for observing, learning from, but it can never be changed.
“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” _ Albert Einstein