Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Serious Question?

On his hit TV show in the late 1980's, Gordon Shumway, aka Alf, was blessed with knowing the exact date of his death. This wasn't like the carousel in Logan's Run, where you knew you would die on a certain day, but that you could die before then too. This was, Alf could not die, due to cosmic fate, before the date that had been foretold. He knew when he would die.

So, I ask you, if you could know the exact date of your death, would you want to know?

I think I would. You would be immortal in the interim. The decisions we make would be vastly different. Our lives might be richer. Of course, then we run into the Oedipus problem of self-fulfilling prophecy. What if knowing the date of our death causes us to change our actions, thus ensuring the fulfillment of the prediction? What if all the contingencies predicated the outcome based on our selection of them made through knowledge of the outcome?

In Jorge Luis Borges's short story "The Secret Miracle," the protagonist Jaromir Hladík is arrested by the Nazis and condemned to execution 10 days hence. He realizes that he is immortal during those ten days. He still dies, but for those ten days, instead of feeling helpless, he feels invincible (to a certain extent). Doc Brown never wants to tell Marty about the car crash that ruins his future, perhaps precisely to avoid it coming to pass. Marty decides not to drag race Needles in Back to the Future III, because he has seen his future if he responds to being called "chicken," and he does not like it. Doc was concerned about disrupting the space-time continuum, but Marty just wanted to better his life.

The future is an undiscovered country. Is it better to know it, to avoid the pitfalls, or does knowing them ultimately lead us right to them?

The wound can only be healed by the spear that caused it.

1 comment:

JC said...

Minority Report comes to mind. Specifically how the murder John Anderton is supposed to commit in the future becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Would I want to know? I don't know if I'd want to know the exact date, but I think it would be good to know whether or not you would grow to be old. Are you going to see your kids grow up? What about grandkids? Etc.