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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

More Thoughts on My Replay

Several days ago I posted about a daydream I've had of "replaying" my life with all the knowledge and experience I've learned growing up. My first post on the subject was mostly concerned with my overriding purpose: to attempt to forestall climate change. This time around, I'm considering the personal matters. 

First of all, I'm very happy with my life and I have few regrets. I have a wonderful network of family, friends, and colleagues, and I'm happy with my career path. 

The tragedy of the replay concept is that while one might try to recreate the best parts of one's life and omit the regrets, in practice this will be challenging. 

Academically, I think I'd be fine. I should have no trouble at all navigating any grade school or university courses focused on the arts, and while math and science might present some challenges, I should be able to pick up anything I've forgotten. On the whole, I imagine my greater experience and maturity should allow me to do better in school than I did the first time around.

But what about my personal relationships? For one thing, I don't remember the precise circumstances under which I met my dearest friends. With some thought I could recreate many of them, particularly the friendships formed during grade school and university. But even then, how can I create an honest relationship with anyone I knew in my previous life? I'll have decades of experience and memories that would put them at immense disadvantage in the friendship. Much as I'd be desperate to reach out to old friends across the course of my life, my conscience would tell me that they're all off limits. 

Unless I allow myself to become monstrous, my replay would be a lonely one. Even with my parents and my little brother, it would be incredibly difficult not to fundamentally alter the way we interact. I would, in effect, be older than my parents, not in body, but in mind. 

Relationships with women would be even more fraught. Forget hooking up in my teens (not that I did the first time around). And forget connecting with any women I was with in real life, even my wife--absolutely the most agonizing and tragic aspect of the replay. Meeting Sylvia was the result of years of interconnected friendships and chance; even if I could replay all those events perfectly, the odds of running into Sylvia the same way would be very slim. I could easily seek her out; I know where she worked at the time we originally met in 2002. But what would I say? I'd either have to tell her the truth, that we were married in another life, or I'd have to arrange some kind of "accidental" meet cute and hope for the best, lying to her by omission all the while. 


Then there's the fact that my efforts to convince powerful people that I come from the future with a warning about climate change would completely derail my life if I had any measure of success. I'd probably spend the rest of my life as a protected asset of one government or another. In the best case, they'd let me live my life as normally as possible while I gave them as much information as I could about my experience of climate change impacts; in the worst case, they'd consider me a source of intelligence of future events and try to alter the timeline in nefarious ways. 

The forces of the universe might decree a replay necessary, but what a hard, lonely road for the replayer. 


Jeff Shyluk said...

Instead of my other comments to your cosmic replay scenario, I did think about a short scene as an illustration, but it didn't quite come together in time, as you may no doubt note:

It's Leaf Rapids, and a Canadian government-issue Ford LTD rolls up the driveway to the house of Mr. and Mrs. Woods. (As I recall back then, many of those gigantic cars were painted in deep forest green, but I could be mistaken).

Ding-dong. Who is it? Indian Affairs, and Carl Sagan.

Indian Affairs? I think you got the wrong house, buster.

No, I know, I know. We needed a government agent to supervise, um, the first contact, and I'm the closest one. The only one up here, from any agency. And I brought Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan points to the car: and I brought Vangelis! He's not coming in, though.

Mr. Woods rubs his jaw thoughtfully: I understand completely. We get a lot of that around here.

May we come in, however? Sure, you came all this way, you might as well.

Ethereal music plays as the strangers are brought into the Woods home. A fully pregnant Mrs. Woods is in the kitchen. Coffee? Would you like some coffee?

Or scotch? Mr. Woods offers. You might need it.

Vangelis is very loud today, don't you think? - an observation from Carl Sagan. You can hear him in the car from here. The guests refuse refreshments and ask to see, well...

You couldn't have picked a better time. He's watching his Spock show.

Dr. Spock? A quizzical Carl Sagan.

Mr. Spock, Mrs. Woods clarifies.

A small boy in front of a television set. He is Earl J. Woods, time-traveller. He says aloud: Come on, Bones. What's the mystery? The TV says: Come on, Bones. What's the mystery? Earl says aloud: Spock's brain is gone. The TV says: Spock's brain is gone. Earl says: His what? The TV says: His What? Earl says: It's been removed surgically. The TV says: It's been removed surgically.

Fascinating! exclaims the Indian Affairs Agent. Oh hi, says Earl to the guests. He returns to predicting what the television will say. It's possible the boy has an eidetic memory, that he's memorized the episode, suggests Sagan. He's done that with every episode, says Mr. Woods with a heavy sigh. Vangelis plays a very complicated and dramatic note.

Look, let me show you something, says Mr. Woods. He calls Earl over and the boy obeys at once, not at all upset about missing his show. You, Mr. Agent, when I signal, you say out loud the first three random words that come into your mind. Based on those three words, you Carl Sagan will write another three words, the first that come into your mind, onto this piece of paper, and then fold it a couple of times so we can't see it. Ready? Go.

BEEF BALL MOO, says the Indian agent. He has a quizzical look on his face: clearly he's never uttered that exact phrase ever before in life. Carl Sagan immediately scribbles and then folds his paper. Now give the paper to the Agent.

Earl, what did Carl Sagan write? PORK CHOP OINK! Earl giggles.

Carl Sagan turns absolutely porcelain pale. What does the paper say? The Indian Affairs Agent unfolds the paper and reads its contents.

Cut to an exterior of the Woods house. Vangelis plays the five notes of Close Encounters. Before the final note trails away, black helicopters bearing armed Hollywood lawyers swoop down and arrest everyone for copyright infringement.

I didn't really have an ending in mind. But all those the trees smell wonderful.

Jeff Shyluk said...

Oh yeah, I did have another bit, I don't know how to put it in the story.

It takes place some time after Carl Sagan and the Canadian Government grapple with their understanding of the fundamentals of Earl:

He wrote a letter to me, and it was the most profound writing I'd ever experienced. So that's why I contacted your government, who invited me to come all the way up here. I just assumed he was... he was... Carl Sagan takes the offered scotch anyhow. Adult-shaped? He swigs his drink. TRAN-YA!! yells Earl at the top of his lungs, and he throws his head back in an truly eldritch belly-laugh.

The Indian Affair Agent has a dinner fork hidden in his hand: he'd spirited it from Mrs. Woods' silverware drawer without anyone being the wiser.

We're going to need a lot more time for study, Carl Sagan informs Mr. Woods. Is there a place we can stay for a few days around here? A hotel maybe?

Mr. and Mrs. Woods, Earl, and the Indian Affairs Agent all answer in unison: The Town Centre Complex.

Oh. I see. And we'll need a drugstore, for toothbrushes, shampoo and other sundries.

The Town Centre Complex.

How about a good restaurant?

The Town Centre Complex.

A gym so I can work out?

The Town Centre Complex.

How about... an art gallery? A health and education center? A consumer co-operative?

The Town Centre Complex.

Maybe... this is a theory... the entire town is psychic? You seem to all know what I am thinking and say it all at the same time. It's incredibly off-putting, you must realize.

We're sorry, says Mrs. Woods. The TCC is the only place in town, explains Mr. Woods.

The Indian Affairs Agent is kneeling in front of Earl. He presents the fork like it was a magic trick. Hey, little man, can you bend this fork with your mind?

NOOO!!! bellows Mr. Woods, but he's too late. Earl shrieks with glee, grabs the fork and stabs it into a nearby electrical socket. His skin glows incandescent yellow and his skeleton registers as visible, flashing wildly. His teeth make involuntary castinet noises. Clackity! Clack! Bzzzt!

The lights blink off in the Woods house. You can't ever give Earl a fork, explains Mr. Woods with long-suffering patience, or he does that. Earl chortles - his hair is all on end, and wisps of smoke emerge from his scalp. By the rising human grumble noise from outside, apparently power for the entire town has gone out. Vangelis hammers fruitlessly on his keyboard. What, even me? I'm using batteries, for pete's sake!

Sleep carefully at the hotel, that's my advice, says Mr. Woods as he shooes the Indian Affairs Agent and Carl Sagan out the back door.


Well, once the town finds out you gave Earl a fork, they'll probably try to beat you up. But that's not the biggest problem. Put cotton in your ears and sleep with your shampoo under your pillow, lest you find peanuts lodged in your auditory canals and Necco Wafers in your hair conditioner.

What an odd thing to say, thinks Carl Sagan, who is not in the least superstitious, and as a result who wakes up the next day needing the services of the Health & Education Center at the TCC to dislodge peanuts that have deafened him. Nobody has the temerity to ask why his hair smells like sugar candy from the 1800's.

Earl J. Woods said...

Once again, readers of this blog will see why I keep posting: Because I can rely on Jeff to regularly come up with something brilliant. These vignettes played out in my head as if I really were back in the 1970s. Hilarious and beautiful.