March 11, 2014

Contemplating THE FUTURE Of Emotional Temporal Relativity

"We're in that moment.  The wrecking ball has already hit all of this, and this is just the moment before it all falls down."
Late in The Future, a film about two hipster-types who attempt to affect radical lifestyle changes in the 30 days before they adopt a cat, there's a moment where Jason (Hamish Linklater) freezes time. He and his girlfriend Sophie (Miranda July) are on the verge of a fight that will surely have disastrous consequences and, not wanting to face the music, Jason halts the temporal flow and engages in a prolonged philosophical argument with the moon while trying to face his looming future. 

This movie is precious.

But there is something about that scene and the relativity of time and how we experience it that I just haven't been able to shake. I still remember wandering around my high school the day I graduated and marveling at how fast four years had gone by. In a lot of ways, it still felt like I had been a new freshman only a moment ago, and yet here I was preparing to head off to college.  I remember thinking to myself, "This is what it feels like. The next four years are probably gonna pass even faster, so you better fucking enjoy them."  And I was right. College went by in the blink of an eye and ever since my life has been broken up into chunks that seem to end before they've even began.  Five years in LA went faster than I would have liked and now I've been back in Boston for just about four, which means it's about time for me to start exploring new residential opportunities. 

But a large part of that rapid passage of time seems to be dictated by my enjoyment of the situation. There's truth to the old adage that "time flies when you're having a good time."  My wedding day was an absolute blast and so of course the whole thing is a blur.  (Granted there was quite a bit of whiskey involved, but still.)  There are certain moments that you just want to live inside of forever, whether it be a fun party, a great first date, an exciting vacation or even just a really good meal. Of course these are the moments that quickly slip through our fingers while the moments we'd rather skip over entirely, like a bad breakup, a shitty job or the death of a loved one somehow manage to drag themselves out at an excruciating pace. 

Being the science nerd that I am, I can't help but consider Einstein.  The revelation that time is not a steady state and in fact passes faster or slower depending upon your position and relative movement in the universe is utterly fascinating to me. (Pretentious speculation incoming!)  Imagine if that somehow factored into our emotional perception of time?  What if increased dopamine and brain activity somehow managed to alter the rate at which we experience time passing, as if our bodies were vibrating at a slightly different speed than the others around us?  I understand that explanation is likely not physically possible, but then again scientists just discovered a new body part last year, so clearly our knowledge of human biology is far from complete.  Even if our temporal experience is not altered in a physical sense, surely it could be manipulated in a cognitive one?  If we could pin down some kind of discrete link between our physiological states and how we process the world around us, might we be able to specifically target those biological functions through a chemical means to, in effect, allow us to let time pass faster or slower in our minds?  It's a concept touched on in the most recent adaptation of Dredd, albeit in a surface way designed solely to create some admittedly stunning visuals. But what would be the psychological effects if we were able to linger within moments of pleasure or essentially bypass times of discomfort?  Pain and embarrassment sucks, but it's also an integral part of our mental development and personal growth.  I believe it was the great philosopher James T. Kirk who once said, "If we lose [pain and guilt] we lose ourselves.  I don't want my pain taken away.  I need my pain."  He also had the good sense to question why God would ever need a starship, so we should probably heed his wisdom on all things.

Anyway. 

When Jason finally unfreezes time, he discovers that he wasn't quite as clever as he thought. Instead of picking up exactly where he left off in the temporal stream, Jason suddenly finds himself propelled days forward. Time has gone on without him and his attempt to thwart confrontation results in Jason missing out on a valuable part of his own life, including the chance to adopt that sweet little cat.  As much as we may wish differently, there are no shortcuts in this world and there are always consequences when you fuck with the fabric of the space-time continuum.   Sure, Sophie could have gone to pick up the cat from the shelter, but she was busy being chased by an oversized yellow t-shirt. 

Like I said, precious. 



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Title: The Future
Director: Miranda July
Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater,  David Warshofsky
Year Of Release: 2011
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant