Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Time Machine

A time machine would allow the traveler to visit vistas unknown and unseen and return with knowledge that could change the course of history, or just a life. Neither Einstein nor Stephen Hawkins believe that time travel is possible, but most people agree that history and lives can be changed by the action of a man, women, or group of people.

In essence we each have a time machine, something that can change the way history, even down to the personal level, is written. Every step we take, ever move we make, as the song goes, is watched by the confluence of fate, chance and destiny. Should you not bring that hundred-dollar bill with you, you couldn’t have had the ready cash to buy that counterfeit Rolex from the street corner vendor on 54th and Lexington.

Then the pickpocket working the area would have seen the cash and gone for your wallet. Then you wouldn’t have wound up with no money nor credit cards or train pass to get back to New Rochelle. Had your mobile phone’s battery not died you would have been able to call for help, but it did, and you couldn’t. You didn’t even have a quarter in your pocket to make a phone call.

That’s how you wound up begging for a quarter on the corner of 54th and Lexington when the Cop came by and arrested you, not believing your story about the lost wallet mainly because you were abusive to him when he approached you; he was tough, you were tougher, but he was a Cop and you weren’t, and then you found yourself in jail.

You got your phone call but you had to wait in the cell. Carlos Fuentes wasn’t in the mood for a white bread in his cell, and went at you with his fists. You’d studied karate and judo but never really used them outside a Dojo, and to your surprise you discovered that a concentrated blow to your opponent’s chest, just above the solar plexus, could actually cause the heart to stop. You were as surprised as Carlos Fuentes when he fell over dead from the blow.

You were already arrested, now just charged with a more serious crime than the trumped up one the Cop tossed at you. The lawyers cleaned out your savings defending you successfully against the murder charge, but your wife left when the money ran out, your boss fired you for showing exercising poor judgment against the policeman and Fuentes, thinking that as a manager and head of a department you should have kept your cool in adverse circumstances.

The next time you saw him, years later; he didn’t recognize you when he dropped the quarter in your cup. You were in rags. He was coming out of a Deli on Houston. You didn’t say hello. He didn’t look at your face.

Fate changed. Actions shape events, which when reviewed and retold or recorded become history. Each of us has a time machine to shape the future. It’s called us.

A lie, a good deed, a planned action, can shape the way our future unfolds. When one is in a position to influence others, that person can easily affect the futures of those people as well. The higher up the ladder one goes the more influence that person’s actions have on the course of history.

That is why we should be very careful choosing leaders. Some make the right decisions and wind up writing a glorious history, like Alexander the Great, others create an aura of infamy and madness, like Hitler, leaving horrendous suffering, senseless death and wanton destruction in their wake.

A leader’s decision that is influenced by his own self-aggrandizement is like that time machine as well. Those that decide to go to war based on advice by others who stand to benefit. Those who approve a dam project to help friends improve their businesses, and take a kickback at the same time.

Those that look the other way knowing something untoward is happening. All of these actions control the outcome of history. Huey Long, the one-time governor of Louisiana was responsible for the death of scores of people when he ignored building codes in favor of a fatter bank account supplied by the friendly building contractor who found it cheaper to pay Long than to build safe buildings.

Wars are profitable. Some still maintain that the ‘military-industrial complex’ encourages them to make money. Who knows?

What is clear is that a person can make a difference. The higher up that person is the bigger a difference.

Leaders can and do make history.

We chose the leaders.

That is what democracy is all about.

If we chose leaders who are like Huey Long, we are to blame.

The time machine is in our hands.