If you’re a fan of LOST, you recognize the title of this post as the title of the Flannery O’Connor book that Jacob was reading placidly while Locke plummeted eight stories to his paraplegic destiny in the season finale.
The finale left us with one humdinger of an existential question: can the past be changed, creating an alternate timeline, or is the past a fixed entity (a theory otherwise known as “whatever happened, happened”)?
I had cause to think about that today. Two friends revealed two different set sof events that were breathtakingly similar to events in my own life. A pair of parallel universes, if you will.
Which led me down the path of “what if?” For a brief moment, I got two glimpses into what might have happened, if things had worked out differently.
My mom was hospitalized for pneumonia eight months before she was hospitalized again and finally diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Since her death, my sisters and I have had misgivings about whether or not her primary care physician missed diagnosing it during her first hospitalization. My own experiences with that doctor since have shown me that he is, at best, not very thorough. It’s very possible that had they caught the cancer in February, rather than November, she would still be alive. A friend told me the story today of her own mother, who is a five year survivor of stage 4 lung cancer, thanks to some very good clinical trials. I can’t help remembering talking to my mom about getting into something of that nature when I saw a story about it on the local news, but she insisted that she was better off sticking with her regular doctors’ treatment plan.
That’s the sort of “what if” that can make you crazy if you spend to much time there, pondering an alternate timeline that could have been.
Another friend of mine is going through some marital problems. Her situation is really similar to what was going on in my own marriage a few years ago, right before a major turning point (for the better, in my case). But in her wrestlings, I see the path I didn’t choose, and so easily could have. That’s another alternate timeline that I’m peering down.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter. In my case, whatever happened, happened. To tell the truth, I am not so certain that those alternate timelines would have, in the end, taken me to a present that was much different.
Everything that rises must converge. The point of all things is the point of all things, and if you’re growing and learning and maturing, you’re moving inexorably towards that point.
Your path may change–I’m not sure your destination really does. The external circumstances may differ (substantially) but the internal truth, the reality of the matter, the conclusions that you eventually come to probably don’t. At least, that’s what I think right now.
As for LOST, I’m not bothered much by the prospect of resetting things to an alternate timeline, for much the same reason. These characters are being drawn inexorably to a center, to a destiny that is more about the formation of their characters than their outer circumstances. If the final season is in part, showing us that by any other path, they eventually come to the same place (within and without), I’m okay with that.
It’s certainly easier than contemplating the different paths that might have brought me here.