An essay by Isabelle Sorrells
What would you do if you could escape the merciless cage of time? Who would you see and where would you go? Evidently, with a time machine all is possible. As with a time machine, one may attain knowledge so easily captured from the grips of the past, historical experiences, and may become ‘the first’ to claim such events and circumstances for their own. Playing at God, when we are undeniably not, is a dangerous and selfish game that humans were never meant to play. Cunning and forever testing as we are, since when has that stopped us? Would you risk the freedom?
Jumping into a time machine, I would go to so many places and witness the founding events of the world as we know it firsthand. On my darker, humoristic side, I would go back to experience the war of the worlds radio broadcast to encounter the people in their suspended panic in fear the world is under attack by aliens. Spectacularly I would witness the passing of Halley’s comet in 1910, but I wouldn’t just watch the comet. I would watch the people manically prepare for the end of the world and civilization as we know it, only for them to live the next day and continue to live. I would go back to see the Vikings and maybe join them on a few of their battles and voyages, or sink further in history to become a part of the navies which brought justice to the dreaded pirates that terrorized the sea. Thrillingly and how astonishing would it be to see all the ancient ruins of extinct cultures of today as they once were in their golden ages – vibrant, thriving, and full of life and activity? From Constantinople, Rome, Greece, and Egypt, to the ancient Mayan temples and cities. If I could see the Library of Alexandria I would read the texts and knowledge forever lost to history, perhaps try to save it. Which begs the question, if I could go back and save people from disaster, such as the villainous iceberg that felled the titanic, would I? I don’t think so. Who am I to play God – to determine who gets to live or die when I have no idea the effect it will have on the future? Even going so far as to live in a time when I do not belong is pushing it. Sadly tempting as it is, I would go to preserve and learn, but not to change. I would learn from the ancient masters of art as an apprentice and maybe take a class or two at Bauhaus. I would perhaps even go to ancient Greece to see their long lost inventions at work, such as the mighty sea chains or to ancient Egypt to witness them set fire to distant ships all with a single mysterious mirror. Eagerly I would go see the World’s fair back when the inventions introduced seemed like magic. Above everything else I would like to witness the good moments, peoples, and advances in history. In our study of the past, we tend to overlook the good for the horrific, as those moments seem to be more impactful and shocking than what good there is. Essentially, one moment is no less important than the other. There are so many places to see, events to experience, and people to meet in history that we fail to know and teach that I would love to have the honor of learning about firsthand.
Humans are simple creatures, as our character and behavior fundamentally has not changed over the centuries, however, our culture and values have. To go back to a time when technology as you and I know it didn’t exist would be like going to an entirely different world -one I can only imagine. It is one where people are more focused on people and their surroundings than a screen. They are more aware. Creatively people know how to engage one another, to interact and make deep relationships in a way the technological generation may continue to forget. Dating for one thing, would be so much more fun and worthwhile. Men back in the nineteen-fifties, for example, would ask women on a date, not to date them. These are very different requests. Since a date is a night out to spend time with and understand a person – a one night commitment. Women and men would lead dates with each other one after another – that isn’t a necessarily improper thing. Boys nowadays don’t understand this concept and ask girls to date them, which is asking them into a long term relationship before they’ve even had a full conversation with them – at least until they break up because they don’t like each other after all. Figuring that out is what dates are for, not dating. The things people used to do for fun were more involved and required people to interact with others and get out of themselves. They danced! They busted their butts and threw it down to have a great time. People would venture out specifically to dance, to clubs or bars or even restaurants. Occasionally, they got drunk too – but dancing isn’t so natural or appreciated in our culture anymore. Unless it’s for a TikTok. If I could go back to a time when that was part of everyone’s lives, not just for professionals – really dancing with skill and originality – I would dance so many nights away. I would journey back in time for the potential careers too. Journalism, for example. Being a journalist in history was much more vital, involved, and thrilling. Citizens relied on it for their news – it was a quality art form that people cared about and cared if it was well done and honest. It held a higher standard. This, I believe, is what I would do if I was born in another time. Traveling was an adventure back then, not just the means to an adventure. By horseback, by ship, or by train, and everyone had to do the same. I could travel on the orient express! I’m sure traveling by sea for a few months might not be so comfortable as I am used to, but I think it would be worth it. While to be there when the old lands and peoples unknown to mankind were first discovered, or to be able to travel anywhere and for it to all be completely new because I couldn’t look up such places or pictures of them online – such an experience would be beyond words. I love the fashion of the previous decades – from the 1980s down to the 1920s. The attention to detail and quality was stunning and, I’ll admit, I do like a guy in a suit. Marvelously magical it would be to live and experience our past cultures, which I know much of it is romanticized since there is only so much we can know about life back then, so I would be content to live in it for a short time then jump back into my time machine to return to the century I belong, one with air conditioning, electricity, skateboards, and plumbing.
There are many historical figures I would be honored to meet and learn from. Leonardo da Vinci, for one. Studiously I would apprentice under him and learn not just art, but all his marvelously advanced scientific inventions and theories and live as an artist during the renaissance. I would also visit Ernie Pyle and work beside him to learn the art of journalism and experience the harrowing but diverse life of a writer in war. In a captivated trance I would watch Emelia Earhart fly across the seas and maybe learn how to fly a plane from her, although maybe not how to navigate. I would journey on expeditions alongside all the original explorers and find the ones none of us know about – the ones which are responsible for the discovery and knowledge of our earth. Possibly I would become a cowgirl in the mid-west while America was still young. Above anything else, I’d see Jesus Christ, just to be with Him in person. Although I could also transport back to when He was my age and grow up with Him. To be in His presence as fully man and fully God here on this earth with humanity would be an honor. I think I would see Him last too, since I’d probably end up staying with Him. Conversely, He’d have me go back to my time, to serve Him there. But really, who knows? Considering there are countless others I would go meet and learn from, even with a time machine I don’t think there is enough time in my lifetime to see them all.
I would travel back in time, and I would go far and wide. At least, I would to answer a rhetorical question – in a heartbeat. If it was real life? I would hesitate. Why? Because it is like Frankenstein’s monster. Time travel is a delusion to satiate man’s ravenous pride and selfish desires fueled by our desire to be like God. We could mold our future and erase our past, take moments of glory for our own, or steal all the knowledge for ourselves that was never meant to be ours – not in that way. Despite even if we all did it for good, our intentions always selfless, only making right what’s wrong – who are we to know what is to be changed and what is meant to be? The very act of going back is selfish. It doesn’t matter who or how it’s done. To travel through space and time is a question we are obviously not ready for. Knowing this is a mission that has always ended in disaster, it is one I would be sorely tempted to take on. Conceivably, going back through time could be part of how it is meant to be, part of our future – determined by God Himself. Who knows if I would be able to resist? Back and beyond, time calls for me – God knows if I’ll ever make the voyage.