So it went.
I did it on the trip to Paris, and finished it at the CDG airport before the flight to London.
I want to shed some light on the theory of time that is embedded in the book. Traditional view on the time assumes that only present truly exists. Past does not, because it has just past and is not there anymore. Future does not because it is not there yet. According to Billy Pilgrim (the novel main character), or rather to his teachers on planet Tralfamadore, the time exists in its full reality:
The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
In the novel, Billy travels in time, back and forward, essentially abolishing the faith and the need for free will – because the future is as rigid and unchangeable as is the past. No one can do anything about it.
Would-would you mind telling me,' he said to the guide, much deflated, 'what was so stupid about that?' 'We know how the Universe ends,' said the guide, 'and Earth has nothing to do with it, except that it gets wiped out, too.' 'How-how does the Universe end?' said Billy. 'We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears.' So it goes. "If You know this," said Billy, 'isn't there some way you can prevent it?
Can't you keep the pilot from pressing the button?' 'He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way.
However, even knowing this from his teachers, “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”. Billy finally grasped the idea of time and acquired the ability to perceive the time in the new way, after he was taught how primitive his earthling notion of time was:
Now, let me for a bit of more serious thought...
I don’t like the idea of total determinism and a negation of free will. I think, it is exactly for the human free will, that we cannot travel into the future. There are also serious physical arguments against such ideas, all of them having roots in the third law of thermodynamics — in the very notion of entropy.
But I like the idea of the past having its existence. The past, all the events of yesterday, last year, last century last era – simply exist. The nature of its existance is, of course, different from the existence of this table or of ourselves, but it still has many enduring existential attributes.
The past events are petrified, trapped like bugs in an amber, in some mysterious fabric called “the past”.
For ages, equipped only with our memory, we did not have means to see it, but today we have. It probably started with photography and evolved through movies to Flicker’s shots, Youtube’s reels and Twitter’s tweets. More and more we have means to go back and to see clearly, to contemplate all the moments of the past, as they were, and – as they are – unchangeable, trapped like in amber, but ... no less beautiful than the present....
Time can be visualized as unfolding dynamic tree. At present, as “a fork” it bifurcates into zillions of branches, each branch being a different possibility for events to happen, words to utter, gestures to make, steps to walk... But once this fork moves forward, the branch becomes like a fossil, petrified and impossible to change.
I guess one could even built morality and ethics on this concept of time. No one wants to have his bad deeds and bad decisions recorded and permanently available for reading. But, like it or not, they are. There is no escape from this. So, one should try to have only good deeds of his to stay trapped in the amber of the past. That’s the simple base for morality.
Is it ?
Written in London at 4.35 AM on November 9th – during a sleepless night. Unstuck in time....