February 21, 2006

Get Back

Bob McC has a good question on his weblog Vowel Movement. If you could use “save points” in your life, where would you have used them?

For the non-gamer in the audience, a “save point” is a place in a video game when you’re allowed to save the state of your game. If you mess up after that, you can go back to that point in the game and proceed with different decisions (hopefully avoiding your original screw up). It’s like being able to go back in time and start over again.

I don’t regret very many of my decisions in life. I can think of times when I might have “saved my game” but I have few instances where I would have wanted to undo things. I would never restore to any earlier version of my life before my kids were born because, of course, they would not necessarily be born if anything were to change.

And I have few regrets for any decisions I’ve made since my kids were born.

One of my daughters asked us a similar question a while ago: what would you do if you could go back in time. As an adult, it’s easy to think of many times when knowledge of the future would be useful. Even a short jump backwards gives you a lot of advantages in certain situations (gambling, for instance). See “Groundhog Day” for one take on this. Of course, that’s cheating. Maybe all time travel is cheating. There are ways to cheat without time travel, and I avoid those for reasons of my own morals. It’s interesting that people might think time-travel cheating is more legitimate, but once you consider it, it really isn’t legitimate.

There are times I might be able to warn people of something bad that was going to happen to them — something avoidable. At least one catastrophic event stands out, and I’ve wondered what I would have done had I known it was about to happen. On a larger scale, what if any one of us had known the 9/11 attacks were going to happen? Do you start to get into a 12 Monkeys-type situation when you’re trying to convince people something that big and unexpected is about to unfold? There are also unintended consequences to consider. Yet another movie deals with that issue: “The Butterfly Effect.” It’s a cautionary tale, of course, because that’s what makes movies interesting. Another, more cerebral and bizarre take on it can be found in “Primer.”

On the other hand, I could have been more prepared for my daughter’s illness, but I couldn’t have prevented that. More trivially, I might have made some better decisions in my home improvement endeavors.

I don’t know. Right now I’m comfortable living my life forwards.

Posted by James at February 21, 2006 3:46 PM
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Assuming that childhood doesn't count (there are too many obvious advantages to re-doing childhood with an adult mind), I'm not sure if save points interest me much.

I'm not sure I should have switched jobs in 1997. But I'm not sure that was a mistake, either. A save point (or as Windows calls them, a restore point) would have been nice, I guess. As long as I could go back to my original decision if the alternative worked out even worse.

There are a few decisions I made while unemployed that may or may not have been mistakes. I wouldn't mind exploring those too, if it were extremely convenient to do so.

But, even knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't make a lot of radically different decisions. Most of the decisions I've made, I haven't considered to be terribly difficult. Unpleasant, sometimes, but not difficult.

OTOH, when it comes to small decisions and trivial events, like one drink too many, a poorly worded remark, or a regrettable purchase, the ability to change things is far more tantalizing. An "undo" feature would be nice.

Posted by: Julie at February 21, 2006 5:18 PM

I think save points are more interesting if you know you've got them before you act. Then I could start making some serious mistakes. ;-)

Posted by: Maggie at February 21, 2006 9:11 PM

Good point!!

Posted by: Julie at February 22, 2006 8:42 AM

GAH! Don't go back and change things, you'll cause a rift in the space/time continuum!

Posted by: Patti M. at February 22, 2006 8:58 AM

I agree with Maggie. They're only useful if you know you have them in advance. Then you can try all sorts of risky things. Of course, if everyone had them then things would get bizarre and messy.

As for do-overs, I wouldn't want any because I'm happy with most of what is going on in my life right now. Who knows how those changes would affect it? I suppose the easy way out would be to say that I wish I had invested in Microsoft when I was in college.

Posted by: briwei at February 22, 2006 9:13 AM

There are several major things in my life I'd like to have another shot at (to do the exact opposite) but then again I wouldn't want a version of myself who hadn't learned those lessons walking around in the world right now.

Posted by: Mike L. at February 22, 2006 9:25 AM

Now *that's* an interesting point, Mike. When you play a video game, you're outside of the game. But does Banjo learn anything? Doesn't matter -- you've learned it, and you control him.

Posted by: Maggie at February 22, 2006 10:05 AM

Maybe we're all part of one big video game, and God is learning an awful lot... LOL

Posted by: Maggie at February 22, 2006 10:06 AM

Who knows that you wouldn't have learned the same lessons in an easier way (learning from someone else's mistake) and/or learned better lessons?

Or gotten run over by a truck?

That's the thing about regrets. You THINK the other way would have been better, but you don't KNOW it would. Just ask George Bailey. Or Jean-Luc Picard.

Posted by: Julie at February 22, 2006 10:07 AM

Thinking about this requires too much focus on regret for me. I've wasted enough of my life on regret that I'm going to consciously choose not to dwell on it now.

Posted by: Chuck S. at February 22, 2006 1:05 PM

Do-overs are tempting, but I think I'd pass. Knowing me, I probably needed to make the mistakes I made, and at least this way I know things turned out fine anyway.

Posted by: soxfan at February 23, 2006 2:14 PM

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