I walked past a couple in Portsmouth, N.H. They had just stepped out of a time machine. She was dressed like a 1920’s Flapper, with a billowing dress and an interesting, roundish hat fit snug, and he was dressed to the nines, with red suspenders, elegant patent leather shoes, a bow tie, and a straw Boater hat. Could have been F. Scott and Zelda themselves. They were clearly on their way to an event from another era entirely, but just walking along like everything was completely normal, as cool as a cucumber.
Portsmouth has a large complex called the Strawbery Banke, which imitates what an 18th-century colonial settlement would look like — I guess spelling has evolved quite a bit since then. You go through all these historic houses, see how the interiors looked like way back when, and witness the people inside wearing suitable attire for that period. Somehow, I just knew instinctively that the Flapper and her bow were headed to the Banke, back into the time machine.
Philosophers will tell you that the past and the future, for that matter, are not real — they are illusions. We only actually live in the present moment, and the present moment is all there has ever been for anyone who has ever experienced life. From the moment you are born until the moment you die, you always and only exist in the present moment — you exist nowhere else. You may think of something that happened in the past, but even this thinking is still only in the present moment. So you are a captive of the present moment, like it or not. But granted that is an absolute truth — that we are chained to the present moment — it is a pleasant illusion that one might choose to go back in time to another era.
I know where I would go. I’d like to be a senator in 2nd century A.D. Rome when Hadrian became emperor, which was the height of the Roman Empire, some 40 years before plague reared its ugly head in Rome under Emperor Marcus Aurelius — be careful what you wish for. In all of recorded history, where would you go and who would you like to be?
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