Monday, June 09, 2014

A second try?

So far I have declined all opportunities to go to high school reunions. A recent report by family members who did go hardened my disinclination: there'd have been nobody there I knew and the main focus of interest was the booze. And noise--I gather the purpose of a DJ is to prevent conversation.

At a wedding some years ago, while fantasizing about cutting the power cord for the DJ's mixer, I tried to come up with some icebreakers people could use in the sudden silence. The one I liked best was: "If you could go back in time and talk to your senior classmates for ten minutes, what would you say?"

That leads to "what else would you do?" and, recalling that I would be mentally older than my parents were at the time, heads straight into Something Wicked This Way Comes territory. You haven't read that one? Do. Now.

But speculating just for fun: what would I do if my current mind took hold of the senior class me, and I got the chance to try the rest of my life all over again?

Plus side: I get to fix some dumb mistakes. I made a lot of them. Some fixes are fairly generic and easy: get serious about exercise. Read less and listen more. The thing is, one of the mistakes was a choice of school: the right choice was over a hundred miles away. Changing the school makes a whole raft of other situations never appear. One of those situations was meeting my wife. Would I be able to stick it out wasting a couple of years? Worse yet, our age difference would be huge: would the intoxication be quite the same? Would other women be more like my Better Half as she is now than as the earlier version of her would be like the current version?

You'd think I'd be able to avoid the mistakes with the kids, and know the problems much earlier, but the kids would be different kids.

Minus side: I already know that stuff. Getting the necessary college degree would be horribly boring. Yes, I could be a star pupil, and get a better crack at the top jobs, but that might be over-reaching a bit.

I'm a researcher. We try to find out new stuff, right? If I already remember it, what's the point? Maybe I would take a whole different career direction: math instead of physics, or maybe a different branch of physics that I haven't kept track of so well, so that life would have a few surprises for me there.

I recall enough of the shape of history to avoid the big pitfalls, buy generally the right kinds of stocks (nothing in the mid 70's I didn't have any money then anyway, Cisco later), and be materially comfortable, but not rich. I don't think I could change history in any important ways.

And I think that after fixing the first major gaffes, I'd go on to make a whole new set of screw-ups. Maybe if this "going back in time" deal were iterative it might work: each time get a little farther along before screwing up too badly. Of course, what I think is the best life probably doesn't match very well with what God thinks.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I will come back to this. Provoking.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Something very like this is a recurring daydream of mine. I often get fascinated by the mechanics of it, wondering if I could put up with the boredom of even going along for the ride (never mind having to actively attend to and repeat what I once did spontaneously) of events that I didn't want to change for months on end. I eventually decided that inhabiting that young man's head for only brief periods, or leaving myself notes, might be the only way it was endurable. I couldn't live even the best parts of my life over for very long.

Which leads to interesting thoughts about myself as receiver of myself. Would the original me fight back, refusing to be taken over, not believing that it was, hey now you chucklehead ME, er US, that was trying to come in. Are there two selves or an old man living in a young one's body?

Alternatively, a dim awareness of the future superimposed on my old self might work. However I interpreted that prescience, I might at least make better decisions. Also, would I consider the experience proof of the existence of God or evidence against that?

The next step is to wonder if it still might happen after all, with the 2030 version of myself moving into my head next year to help me make better decisions in old age?

james said...

You've thought this through more than I have: the interference with the early me might be problematic.

One amusing tweak would be if _everybody_ now alive who was alive in 1972 re-inhabited their 1972 selves, not just me. (Or include those who'd died in the interim too.) Remembering historical trends would be useless (though there would be lots of preemptive murders anyway) and there'd be lots of races to grab resources, start the first X (what do you need first in order to make microchips?), etc. Others would be at sea: do I perform the song everybody remembers or try new ones our group didn't have time to before? And how do you raise the old kids (as opposed to the new ones)? And from another aspect, some people would try to be better people and some would try to be better off. That might make an interesting premise for an SF novel.