Archive for May, 2010

But Then Again, Too Few to Mention

Posted by on Monday, 31 May, 2010

I have spent the last few days watching the first season of Being Erica. It is a Canadian show about a 32 year old woman with a string of failed relationships and dead end jobs not suited to her level of education, and, most importantly, a long list of life decisions which she regrets, who is approached by a “therapist” with the [as yet unexplained] ability to send her back in time to relive and redo past decisions. Admittedly, it is a rather girly show, and the SOAPnet logo tag is certainly cause for concern, but if it is not obvious why such a show might still appeal to me, then I am not going to spell it out.

Curiously, while most time travel stories are based on the “Butterfly Effect” philosophy, where changing even one detail in the past has drastic consequences on the present/future, this show takes the opposite approach, where attempting to alter or avoid one incident only leads to circumstances with essentially the same consequences, so that the heroine returns to the present to find (in most cases) that hardly anything has changed at all. However, she now has a fresh perspective and a healthier attitude that allows her to move forward in her life and her interactions with family/friends/coworkers in a more positive direction. Therapy. It has also been established that other characters do remember specific details of the “new” timeline, and also that the therapist is at least visible (though unassuming) to other observers, ruling out the possibility that the experience is all in her head. The ultimate result is that the show seems to be promoting the idea that we are a product of our choices and that an understanding of the past leads to a better future, yet simultaneously implying the completely contradictory idea that fate is essentially self-correcting in a way that would apparently render free will irrelevant. (Look, it’s a soap opera that happens to have time travel. I am not necessarily recommending anyone else should watch it, it just so happens that I have watched a lot of crappy TV shows in recent times and this is not as bad as some, okay?) [Edit: Since this writing, I started watching the second season. While there were some questionable moments in season 1, there has been a decidedly unwholesome shift in the tone of this show in season 2, and I would like to withdraw my already half-arsed endorsement.]

Anyway, as someone who has quite a list of regrettable life decisions, it is interesting to think about what decision I would go back and change, if I had the opportunity. Surprisingly, I could not come up with anything. I am the product of my choices, and if I could somehow go back and change something, invoking the classic “if I only knew then what I know now”… yet that is not possible. Not just physically impossible, but philosophically impossible. For if I made alternate decisions in the past, I would then be the product of different choices, and I would no longer “know now” what I know now, as it were.

However, lest anyone mistakenly think that I may have said anything profound, this is merely a character flaw thinly disguised as wisdom. Looking back, I do not make decisions, I make excuses to stay within my comfort zone. Some of which sound better than others. I can look objectively at any choice that I have made that lead down an undesirable path, and logically infer that the other choice would most likely lead somewhere better, but even given the completely hypothetical opportunity to take the road not traveled, I still prefer the comfort of life as I know it to the uncertainty of the other option. In short, I would not change anything from my past, because it is easier not to.