Saturday, April 14, 2012

Change the Past or the Future?

History is filled with ‘What Ifs.’
If you could go back in time and change things would you?
What if the Titanic had enough lifeboats to service all its  passengers?
What if the SS California had not turned off their wireless for the night and had actually heard the distress call from Titanic?
They were only a few miles away and easily could have arrived in time to save most of the passengers.
Sadly the engine crew probably would not have made it out but fifteen hundred others who died in the frigid waters of the north Atlantic would have reached America shaken and without their personal possessions but alive. 
I do not blame SS California for its failure as they did try to warn Titanic of iceberg dangers in the water but with so many wealthy people aboard the wireless operator was inundated with messages to send out and refused to listen to all else.
The Carpathia tried valiantly to get there in time but the laws of physics and liquid dynamics prevented them from doing so.
The Unsinkable Mollie Brown would not have been a film and when I visited her museum in Denver I would have been trespassing in someone’s home.
Science fiction writers have covered every topic of alternate endings or futures imaginable through the years with regards to titanic like events.
What if that asteroid did not kill off the dinosaurs?
Would mammals ever have survived and taken over the world?
What if that Jewish carpenters son was not murdered a couple of thousand years ago and allowed to continue talking about peace till old age took him?  Would any of us now remember his name?
What if women never got the vote or slavery was never abolished?
I should pause here so my Republican friends can wipe the smiles off their faces and stop daydreaming.
What if my high school Spanish teacher had not found that tiny piece of paper I hid under my butt?
History teaches us but do we learn?
History warns us but do we heed?
And with that in mind I turn your thoughts toward a topic that has polarized humanity for over half a century.
It's a hot button issue that’s guaranteed to start arguments and turn former likable actors into raving lunatics after being caught driving under the influence.
It’s also an event whose very existence has been denied by many who refuse to admit facts into their brains, most notably and dangerously the bearded ugly President of Iran.
What if Hitler had been stopped before killing so many Jews?
In other words, what if the Holocaust had never happened?
Before going further let me assure you that it did and I in no way shape or form am suggesting otherwise!
But what if?
First and foremost there would be many more Jews alive today, or at least I think so.
Steven Spielberg would still be making movies but only about aliens and Liam Neeson would have one less great role to point to.
There would be no Israeli state and the entire Middle East would be Arab territory with occasional visits by nomadic Jews.
The Bible toting radical Evangelicals would have to interpret the prelude to the Rapture in a different way.
And so many more consequences or threads leading from that horrible event that would or should not have happened that I am not smart enough to know or educe.
What I am trying to bring out is while it is romantic to think about how we would change the past given the opportunity we should face the reality that it cannot be done.
And it is entirely possible that while events of the past may have been terrible they are just that, in the past.
And rather than decry them forever we should learn from them and where possible make sure they never happen again.
For the most part we have made things better as a result of past disasters.
The likelihood of another cruise ship setting sail without sufficient lifeboats and trained personnel to load them is near zero.
We may not be able to do anything about an asteroid hitting our atmosphere in the future, sorry Mr. Willis but at least we will be well aware of it long before it does.
And I now know better ways to hide cheat sheets should the need ever arise.
But more to the point, will there be more atrocities in the future?
Will there be pain and suffering brought about by man’s inhumanity to man?
Will natural events such as tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes continue to destroy property and ruin lives?
The answer to these questions is undeniably yes!
Can we lessen their effect and mitigate the pain they cause?
The answer to this is also yes.
And the way to do this is through education.
We should embrace science and seek to understand more about our world and the natural forces that shape our very existence.
Closing our eyes to empirical fact is both ill advised and dangerous.
Religion and faith can coexist with science and education as long as the former does not attempt to supersede the latter and impede progress or muddy the waters.
What if we used religion only for personal inner peace and lost the need or desire to proselytize?
What if instead of trying to put the other guy down for personal or political gain our leaders started using their brains to work toward raising everyone up?
If we could admit that some of us have more than we will ever need even if we live to 200 then maybe we could selflessly work toward helping those of us who only have enough to reach next week and build a better future for all.
And if we did all this we might finally be able to lose the ‘What Ifs’ forever.

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