If you had a time travel machine, which period (time and country) in history would you visit first?
Carrying on from last week’s post about time, this is the sort of question I daydream about on long drives, or standing in long lines, or when my body is stuck in a dull situation and my mind wants escape.
The easy (and painfully trite) answer would be “Jane Austen’s England.” Except that’s not quite true. The first rule of using a time machine, at least in the stories I’ve read, is that one must not interfere with history.
So my going back armed with antibiotics and medical advice in order to first save Jane’s life, and then catch John Keats before he set sail so miserably for Italy, would of course change history. For the better, surely, I’d argue. And the inexorable scientist would probably answer back, yes, But the new history might not include you, and with a Don Martinish *paff* I’d vanish.
So that makes me think, Would I willingly trade my life for Jane Austen’s and John Keats’?
Except I’ve always loathed that sort of question. (I once took an F when a teacher forced on us that horrible “Which would you save, the drowning dog or the drowning child?” conundrum in a history class. He refused to take “Both” because he was determined to make his point that we are morally obligated to save the child and let the dog drown, but I took the F because I know if I had any fight left in me I’d try to save both.)
Back again to the time machine. The question becomes, which time and place would I want to visit knowing that I must lurk in the background and not interfere?
It’s easy enough to pick out moments of triumph since I don’t really want the spectacle of tragedy (imagination is vivid enough), but which?
Even sitting in the gallery to see Olympe de Gouges address the National Assembly in Paris wouldn’t be very exhilarating despite the atmosphere of newness and change and even greatness, because I know what happens to her. Soon, and not after a life of passion and contribution to civilization, as she deserved.
My inclinations are toward people, and not catastrophic or significant events. I think I might end up picking a quiet moment from someone’s life, maybe the coming down from a triumph, or the day of inspiration.
Like Elizabeth Tudor’s first day as queen, when she’s walking around Hampton Court just reveling in the fact that Mary won’t be sending the axe men now.
Or maybe the day Siddhartha Gautama walked out of the palace.
Or how about the premier of a beloved piece of music, to hear its first performance, then take in the stunned audience’s frenzied reaction, and the artist’s triumph?
Or the day the artist got hit with the idea, and turned gleefully to creation? Which one? Hmmm.
If anyone wants to play, jump in!