Martin Heidegger once said, “Humans are temporal creatures.” Every hour at my club’s Membership Training (MT) retreats, every minute in a Starcraft game, and every second in a physics exam seems to dash past me. On the flip side, every hour spent in a dreary linear algebra lecture, every minute and every second outside on a cold December day seems to drag us down like a temporal ball and chain. Time is defiant. Time is independent. When we crave time the most, it blazes past us, and when we wish to be rid of it, it hounds us. If only I had a time machine.
Time travel is a daunting concept: a long chain connecting every event in the universe to an invisible force that only moves forward. From the tiny oscillations in a cesium atom to the voracious appetites of black holes, every single thing is forever bound to the will of the fourth dimension. But one thing in particular, the human mind, is anything but obedient, and our imaginations run wild to what we could do to this defy this intangible chain. Novels such as The Time Machine and TV shows such as Steins;Gate play with the idea of machines that can give us sneak peeks of the final stages of human enlightenment or go against the flow of time to make educated modifications to our past choices. Just the thought of this worldbreaking power to change our finite lifespan can be highly addicting.
My mind has certainly played with these fantasies throughout my four years at KAIST. Many test questions could have been corrected, my MTs could be relived over and over, and many life-changing decisions such as my major and relationships could be tweaked as optimally as I want. I would love to see my alternate futures all laid out in front of me and be able to steer towards the best end result. I could have the most perfect life if time would just listen.
But like all addictions, the idea of time travel is shallow. The reason why every moment of despair and happiness has its impact is because it can never be recreated. Just like a drug, we crave another chance to get that same feeling of euphoria and often turn to fantasies to forget the troubles of life. But that high is never the same and reality is still there, knocking on your door. The scientist in The Time Machine bore witness to an Earth consumed by ice and fire, and the protagonist from Steins;Gate became distant from his friends and lost the ability to feel the value of any of his life choices due to his constant repeats of the past. If we stay too long in our delusional stupor, we alienate our loved ones, forget the meaning of life, and become abominable messes of uncertainty and regret.
This may just be the ramblings of a university student, but when such a milestone in your life comes, you can’t help but let time come into your mind. Time is an enemy on the outside, but a mother on the inside. It never listens to us and often tortures us like some twisted sadist, but in reality, it is teaching us the most valuable lesson and giving us a definite goal: make use of it the best you can. There are no second chances, no time machine, and no memory transfers. Forward is the only way you can go, so do not linger on the past. If you refuse to move forward, then time will leave you, and without time beside us, we are nothing.