Time Traveling and the Divine Will – A Look at Safety Not Guaranteed

“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”

This ad inspires a reporter and two interns to track down whoever placed that that ad in the classifieds and write a story about him or her in the movie Safety Not Guaranteed, which I watched over the weekend.

The movie got me thinking: if someone presented you with an opportunity to go back in time, what would you do? Would you not do anything at all and just observe? Or pull a Back to the Future Part II and give your younger self the results of all the sports games for their future, your past? (Please don’t do that).

Also, you would have to be careful if you did go back in time since the results of one thing changing could be catastrophic. You would have to consider grandfather paradoxes and whether or not you change things so much that it would actually rain donuts.

From The Simpsons Treehouse of Terror where Homer changes his present into a place where it rains donuts.

Okay, I just had a thought – what if this isn’t the present we initially had but the result of someone going back in time and changing things? We would never know, would we. Would we?!

Apologies, I’m okay now…

And then there are the religious implications that may come from traveling in time.

We have this concept of Divine Destiny in Islam, called Qadar. It’s actually one of the six articles of faith in Islam (not to be confused with the five pillars of Islam).

Everything is written and nothing happens without the will of God but that doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as free will. Everything that one does is up to each individual – we’re responsible for all of our own actions. You can’t just sit in the middle of your room, telling yourself that whatever happens is already preordained and so not do anything. If you sit in your room all day, then that was what was written. If you end up getting out of your room and going about your day, then that was what was written for you. It just so happens that God already knows what we’re going to do and that’s why we say it’s been written, because it all has been already.*

Anyone could theoretically justify why he or she should go in the past to change something. What if it’s actually written that an event will happen but then also written that he or she will go back in time and change things, thus changing the timeline?

You just never know folks, you just never know.

Safety Not Guaranteed doesn’t actually touch on the above and the implications of time travel, it just made me think of what has happened and if it can be changed or not. As much as the topic of destiny and other traditional time travel concepts intrigue me, the movie’s focus was just as interesting.

The movie is more about reflecting on one’s past, about regrets. I think a lot of us have regrets about things that we’ve done or didn’t do so just in that respect, there’s something in this movie that a lot of us can relate to.

Looking back at my life, I have a lot of regrets but I honestly don’t think most of them could be rectified by going back to one single point of time and doing one thing differently. However, I’m pretty sure that some of the regrets we tend to have are because we never started an action in the first place – I regret not writing that book, I regret not learning that language, I regret not cultivating that friendship, I regret [fill in the blank]. These are the kinds of regrets that are not limited to the time we are in so we can start these whenever we want to.

And also, while there are definitely things we can’t go back and change, we can at least take a hard look at what we are doing now in our lives so that 10, 15, 30 years from now we won’t look back to this time and have even more regrets than the ones we currently have today. It really is never too late to do anything.

All right, so looking back a the last couple of paragraphs, I feel like I’m doing my best impression of a random motivational speaker. The only thing missing is the friendly fist bump and a “hang in there/go get’em tiger”-type statement. I hope I’m not sounding that hokey. Safety Not Guaranteed just made me think, y’know? There was just something about this movie that really inspired me and I wanted to hold on to the feeling the movie gave me after it finished. I love it when a movie does that. So check out this one if you can and let it make you reflect too.

*There’s a good article on Wikipedia about the concept of Qadar. Just a heads up to give context – I’m personally looking at this from the Sunni perspective. So… yeah :)

4 thoughts

  1. I was thinking about something similar recently. If time travel was possible for humans to figure out, we would know, because we would have met those people from the future right? Unless they are so good at hiding it that we never noticed. Or maybe they only time travel on different planets so they don’t cause a bunch of paradoxes. Ok, I’m going to sleep before this gets out of hand.

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