Philosophers and psychologists may argue over what’s real and what isn’t, but most of us living ordinary lives know and accept the texture of the world around us.
It is very, very difficult for a reasonable person to believe otherwise. Occam’s Razor—the simplest explanation is usually the right one.
The multiple choices and possibilities of daily life are the music we dance. They are like strings on a guitar. Strum them and you create a pleasing sound. A harmonic. But then start adding strings. Ten strings, a hundred strings, a thousand, a million. Because they multiply!
If you put enough strings on time’s instrument, you can shatter reality.
As Jake Epping does.
Jake teaches English in a high school in Lisbon Falls in Maine, and he is a recently divorced.
He earns extra money teaching a GED class. One day he goes out into the world that had existed before his birth.
The first time he goes into that world, he crosses the street to the courtyard where the rabbit-hole is, while the second time, he walks deeper into the past.
A time-travel , where he understands history repeats itself and life is a song which the past harmonizes.
Usually those harmonies meant nothing, but every once in awhile the intrepid visitor to the Land of Ago can put one to use.
The past protects itself. All the past can throw at us and when the time is gone, you can never get it back.
The past fights change because it is destructive to the future.
The past is obdurate for the same reason a turtle’s shell is obdurate: because the living flesh inside is tender and defenseless.
Jake Epping wants to save Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.
He can go back, and he can stop it.
He can change history, John Kennedy can live.
It means small events can have large, ramifications. The idea is that if some guy kills a butterfly in China, maybe forty years later—or four hundred—there’s an earthquake in Peru.
If John lives in Dallas, Robert probably doesn’t run for president in 1968.
Of course he doesn’t know that for sure.
The chances have to be awfully small. If you introduce a million variables into an equation, the answer is going to change.
Little changes at first, maybe, but as the Bruce Springsteen song tells us, from small things, baby, big things one day come.
For a moment everything is clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dream clock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
After having saved him, he realizes that the past doesn’t want to be changed. It fights back when you try. And the bigger the potential change, the harder it fights.
Resistance to change is proportional to how much the future might be altered by any given act.
Probably Jake will just die there, in a past for which a lot of people probably feel nostalgic. Possibly because they have forgotten how bad the past smells.
The changes are never for the better. No matter how good your intentions are.
Sometimes the events that change history are widespread—like heavy, prolonged rains over an entire watershed that can send a river out of its banks. But rivers can flood even on sunny days. All it takes is a heavy, prolonged downpour in one small area of the watershed. There are flash floods in history, too.
Jake feels a little like a man reading a very grim book. A Thomas Hardy novel, say. You know how it’s going to end, but instead of spoiling things, that somehow increases your fascination. It’s like watching a kid run his electric train faster and faster and waiting for it to derail on one of the curves.
Every trip isn’t a complete reset.
It leaves residue.
And Jake Epping is back again, rehearsing what he is going to do.
He has to close the circle.
He is Jake Epping, high school teacher; he is George Amberson, aspiring novelist; he is the Jimla, who is endangering the whole world with every step he took.
Can he really be thinking of risking the world—perhaps reality itself—for Sadie, the woman he loves? That makes Lee’s insanity look piddling.
Come back. It’s not too late to be Jake again. To be the good guy, the good angel. Never mind saving the president; save the world. Do it while there’s still time.
That troubling sense of déjà vu was very strong, that feeling that things are wrong here just as they have been wrong before.
The wave of the future (2011) , the wave of the past (1963).
History repeats itself.
Beautiful young presidents died and beautiful young presidents lived, beautiful young women lived and then they died, but the broken sewer pipe beneath the courtyard of the old Worumbo mill in Lisbon Falls, is apparently eternal.
The chain is still there, too.
Time is a tree with many branches.