A Mobius strip is not only a symbol of eternity/infinity, it’s also a feedback loop, or, in my mind, it symbolizes the nature of time travel ala the movie, The Terminator.
I love a good time paradox. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are stuck in a feedback loop like the ants on Escher’s Mobius strip. How does Sarah get pregnant with John, the future savior, in the first place? Kyle comes back to try to save her life. How does she know what she’ll name her child? Kyle tells her. How does she know what it takes to fight the Terminators? Kyle again. How does Kyle know where to find her? Her son, John Connor, tells him and gives him a photo. When is the photo taken? In Mexico as she’s running for the hills in her jeep, with her gun and her German shepherd. As Sarah herself says in that particular scene…she could go crazy thinking about it. For all eternity, Sarah and Kyle are stuck on a feedback loop. When you think about it, to even try to prevent the rise of the machines in the first place means that she would never meet Kyle, John would not be born – what would happen? Would Sarah be returned to her life before the Terminator entered her world, with no knowledge or memory of an alternate future? Even the Terminator is stuck. Because he returns to the past to kill Sarah, his destruction leaves behind technology that insures the future rise of the machines. A=B=C=A. I love feedback loops and the concept of time travel. The original movie, The Terminator, captured the concepts better than any movie I’ve seen or book I’ve read.
Okay, let’s look at a time travel novel – The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I loved the first half of this book, hated the second half. Why? I felt used as a reader – set up for a pat and very predictable tragic ending. And the movie version annoyed the hell out of me. The over-arching theme of the book is that even if you can travel through time and you know what’s going to happen, you can’t change anything, you can’t prevent anything from happening. Bull shit. Once the protagonist, Henry, realizes who Clare is and remembers what will happen, he has the choice to walk away from her and from his involvement with her in the past, but he doesn’t. Of course if he did walk away, I suppose we wouldn’t have a book. But I could not get behind the author’s theory of time travel, despite her very interesting concept of time travel as a sort of epileptic seizure.
I prefer the theory Frank Herbert espouses in Dune. One action sets off a series of reactions. The future does not move forward in a straight line, but rather every step we take, every move we make (bad poetry), changes the course of history. My view is that our path to the future follows more of a zig and a zag course, we don’t travel directly from point A to point B. In the movie Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell’s character finds himself involved in an existential time/space paradox. Knowing the outcome of his own story, he willingly accepts his fate, and in doing so, changes it. It’s called The Observer Effect: the act of observing will influence the phenomenon being observed.
Here’s how I see it…If I could travel through time, what would I do? I’d like to go back and kill Adolph Hitler, but if I did, what would be the ramifications of my act? Let’s say I succeed and I kill him as a young man, when he’s nothing more than a struggling artist. Our future would be completely different. Would our world be better? It might be worse. According to Sir Isaac Newton, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Who knows how far-reaching the consequences of a single act could be?
I included time travel in my Daughters of Persephone series. The road these female protagonists travel is not straight, believe me. In the end, the sister with the most power, the sister who loves nothing more than to manipulate the past and the future, who is both ancestor and descendant, steps off the Mobius strip to live her own life and die in anonymity, yet even by stepping out of the feedback loop, she has an impact, planting genetic seeds that will bear fruit in the future.
Thoughts on time travel?