Birthdays, time travel, and the meaning of life

So it was my birthday on the weekend, and to celebrate, Souljourneyboy and I went to the movies (and happy days! We saw something other than a Disney or Pixar show).

We saw Looper – which, despite some gaps in internal logic, was a really good movie. So for a while I debated whether this post should be a nostalgic, heart-warming piece about birthdays and memories and the meaning of life, or my thoughts about time travel.

And then I realised they were actually two sides of the same coin, and I couldn’t really write about one without talking about the other.

How? I’m glad you asked.

Firstly – the movie (and don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you). The central theme of Looper is time travel. I really like this kind of mind-bending sci-fi, and the endless amount of dizzying possibilities you can talk about in the car on the drive home. Generally, time travel movies fall into two camps. The first are the movies that have the basic premise that if we go back in time we can change the present. Back to the Future is a good example of this. The other kind suggests that we can’t actually change what will eventually happen – that destiny has a way of unraveling in such a way that no matter what we do, we’ll still end up at the same point. The movie 12 Monkeys has this as its premise.

I won’t tell you which Looper is – but Souljourneyboy and I had an interesting discussion about whether we think: a – time travel is or ever will be possible, and b – whether we can actually change the future, or whether destiny is fixed.

We talked about it for quite some time. And after all that discussion – you know what? I have absolutely no idea. And this brings me back to my birthday.

For a couple of years there, my birthday was a bittersweet occasion. Seven years ago, my darling nephew was born, and also died, on my birthday. He only lived for about 20 minutes. A year later, my father’s friend was killed in a terrorist bomb attack. And then a few years after that, a dear family member of Souljourneyboy’s died on my birthday after a battle with cancer.

I guess my point is that all of this tragedy on a day that is traditionally celebratory showed me a few things. Firstly, that life sometimes makes no sense. I struggled for a long time to find God’s plan in my nephew’s death, that I had to make sense of it somehow. Then I gave up – it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t right or fair. It just is.

The second thing is that love is all that matters. I don’t care if it’s a cliché – love conquers all. Love keeps my nephew alive in our hearts and minds, even though he’s not here with us. Terrorist attacks happen when love is absent. And love helps us celebrate a life well lived, after it’s gone.

So I don’t know if the future can be changed or if we’re all hurtling irreversibly towards our own fates, but I don’t think it really matters. If we just make it through today, the best we can, then that’s all anyone can ask. I’m glad I share my birthday with my little nephew because it is a constant reminder to treasure the things that matter. Like loving unreservedly. Which is exactly what birthdays should be about.

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