I know, I know...it’s always “me”, isn’t it? … Well, yes, I guess it is, but you are very kind in indulging me.
At dinner the other night with friends, while trying with great effort and limited success to force my head up high enough to make eye contact with the incredibly attractive waiter taking our order, I suddenly flashed on what might happen were I to be able to sit down with myself at the age of 21, and I pondered the scenario with no little bemusement and considerably mixed feelings.
There’s little doubt that the meeting would be traumatic for both of us: the then-me would be shocked and horrified to see what he would become, the now-me overcome with longing to be the then-me again. The now-me, I am sure, would be somewhat angry and frustrated with the then-me for being so unaware of his incredible good fortune. Physically, I’m not sure he’d even recognize me, just as I do not recognize myself when I accidentally spot myself in a reflective surface.
What, the then-me would wonder with an understandable sadness and sense of horror, could have happened to turn his smooth-skinned youth into the Portrait of Dorian Gray? Of course, he wouldn't have a clue about the cancer and radiation and chemotherapy that were still many years in his future, and being young, had given very little thought to the simple fact that there is no way to avoid the inevitable natural physical consequences of the accumulation of years. I doubt that any of us would be fully prepared to encounter our even-10-years-in-the-future selves.
What might we possibly say to one another? The now-me would be much more understanding and considerably less altruistic than the then-me, of course, having at least partially learned a great many life-lessons in the intervening years which divide us us. I know the then-me would not be happy with everything I’ve done, and disappointed that I hadn’t done more. I'm sure he would find me a little too hardened, a little too bitter, and not very much fun.
I know he would want to know everything, and the dilemma, as in all issues dealing with time travel, would be that I couldn't really tell him, since it is impossible to know the future without changing it, and despite the automatic assumption that the changes would be positive, the fact is that they could just as easily not be. Now-me would realize that while I know then-me will live to be as old as I am (following me on this?), there is no guarantee that this would be true were I to tell him anything that might change his future.
How could I warn him against the many specific dangers and traumas and sadness that lay ahead? Were I to tell him of specific events, it could spare him incalculable pain, but at what cost, if it would only put him in the path of different but perhaps worse pain?
I think I'd prefer to just reassure him that many good things lay ahead and not mention the bad; to appreciate everything he has while he has it. I could tell him, without mentioning specifics, of the happy experiences he will have, the wonderful people who will enter his life, the love and joy he will share, the friends he will meet, the books he will write. I would hope our meeting might help make him a little more positive and hopeful of the journey between then and now.
Basically, I would want for then-me is what I want for now-me, and for you: if not complete happiness, then contentment.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).