Friday, July 16, 2010

On Meeting Myself


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 my 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 horrified and saddened, the now-me overcome with longing to be the then-me again and also, I suspect, somewhat angry and frustrated for the then-me being so unaware of his incredible good fortune. Physically, I’m not sure he’d even recognize me, just as I do not recognize me 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 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 interim between us. I’m not quite sure whether the then-me would be happy with everything I’ve done, or disappointed that I hadn’t done more--quite probably, being only 21, the latter. I'm sure he would find me a little to 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 change his future.

Warn him against the many specific dangers and traumas and sadness that lay ahead? Advise him to walk, not run, from situations and people he will encounter on his journey from then to now? It would 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 of the good things that lay ahead and not mention the bad: the happy experiences he will have, the wonderful people he will meet, the love and joy he will share, the friends he will meet (without, again, mentioning specifics), 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.

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5 comments:

Eric Arvin said...

I think about this very same fantasy sitation. I'm only 10 years from what I consider my best years, but it still hurts when I think of all the missed chances and spoiled moments. I take solace in my belief that my next life I'll get it right (Hey, I know there MIGHT not be a next life, but who does it hurt to believe?)

Btw, that photo is ADORABLE! I would have been all over you.

Dorien/Roger said...

Ah, Eric...coming from you, my immediate reaction was a quote from John Greenleaf Whittier: For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.

Knitrageous said...

If we knew then what we know now...

A country song but it kind of sums things up for me.

If we knew then what we know now
We could have turned the world upside down
We were reckless, young and proud
We had the whole thing figured out
We never saw the writing on the wall
Even though we thought we knew it all
Oh my friend, if we knew then, what we know now

Jamye

Knitrageous said...

If we knew then what we know now...

A country song but it kind of sums things up for me.

If we knew then what we know now
We could have turned the world upside down
We were reckless, young and proud
We had the whole thing figured out
We never saw the writing on the wall
Even though we thought we knew it all
Oh my friend, if we knew then, what we know now

Jamye

Dorien/Roger said...

All too true, Jamie. Thanks for posting.