Leaping With Our Choices
On March 26, 1989, I was 12 years old and on this day premiered a television show called Quantum Leap. This was a series created by Donald P. Bellisario. It presided around a man known as Dr. Sam Beckitt and his trusty, patriotic friend, Al. They were aided by a computer system, named Ziggy, that was able to determine the probability of what “most likely” needed to be done on a leap. The crux of the show: Sam built this system and in the process of a test run, he started his downward (or upward, depending on your view) path of leaping from his body into the body of others who lived in the past. Al didn’t leap (well, except for one episode), he utilized Ziggy and appeared to Sam Beckitt as a hologram in the past. It was designed so that only Sam could see him (there were exceptions) and he always aided Sam on each jump. Yes, it was about time travel, fixing past wrongs, doing good deeds or striving to, and I absolutely loved the show! However, it seemed to be about so much more. It appeared to me to be a well crafted (at the time I would have described it as awesome or cool) show and really had a sense of purpose, even though many scene setups were cheesy and the use of colored blocks to represent a futuristic computer system was, well, let’s just say, laughable.
However, when I say it seemed to have a sense of purpose, I simply mean that even though at times it became a bit corny or clichéd, there seemed to be an underlying desire to actually make a good science fiction show with good writers who tried to craft a good plot, and actors who seemed to want to represent the characters of the past as best as possible, without heavily subjecting it to the realm of science fiction or using that to such a degree that it over burdened the show in a technical manner. It was more about an inner reflection of the desires of humans to have the chance to go back to something in their past to fix or correct. To try and make yourself consider other options or opportunities which could have lead you down a different path. It’s the desire for a do over. Another chance to do something different. I believe this struck a cord with those of us that watched this show and explains why, even after all these years, this show still has a strong fan following. Trust me, I do not follow this show and only once in a while reflect on it. I’m not a continuous fan, but I always come back to this underlying internal impression that I have of it and I always jokingly say that they need to bring Sam Beckitt home. Unfortunately, the series only lasted 4 years and came to an end on May 5, 1993.
I didn’t watch every episode of the show during its run and I was 16 at the time that it ended, but one thing that has always bugged me is the fact that they left Sam Beckitt leaping. Seriously, this guy is still (in this fictional world) leaping, now 20 years later. I know, I know, it is a TV show. It’s not real. It is purely a work of fiction. I know this and I do not care. I want Sam Beckitt to be brought home. Can you imagine that you are stuck in a paradox of perpetual leaping from one body to the next in the past and the only way to leap out is to accomplish some unknown quest or need that you can barely figure out? It really bothers me when things are left unfinished, and yes, even popular TV shows, no matter how real or fake they are. Now, if it was simply a crappy show, then I also believe in putting things out of their misery, finished or not. But this wasn’t a crappy show, it was pretty good for the time period that it was made in and for the perspectives it was constantly trying to portray. I just don’t like the idea of leaving someone behind and maybe this is what resonates with me about this character. The fact that he was left behind and that was it. I also become quite perturbed by cliff hangers and especially cliff hangers that are left unfinished, because the series that they are a part of has come to an end. All they had to do was write a suitable ending that brought Sam home or at least made it seem like he wanted to keep leaping. I could deal with someone choosing to keep doing something, because then it’s about choice and they have to deal with the repercussions of their choices. But the writers didn’t do this and they left this guy floating around in the past and it makes me wonder, what is going on with him now? It’s a perplexing thought, I suppose you could CYA it (no, no, not the phrase that ends with ass, I mean, Choose Your Adventure) and create your own personal ending for the series, but I want an official ending. I think they could even make a successful movie of the series and put an end to this problem.
With that being the case, this post today isn’t about promoting a movie or TV episode for the series; being laid off has given me more time to think about things, some important and others not so important. I’m not sure why I even thought about writing this with relation to Quantum Leap. Maybe it’s for nostalgic reasons, or maybe I feel that I am doing my own personal leaping and am finding myself relating to this series. It could also be true that I saw something on the internet that made me think about Quantum Leap and decided to do something as mundane as use up my time to write about a favorite TV show from my past. I’ve pondered about this show a few times over the years and wondered how I would feel if I was leaping. Fact is, I think I’d be really pissed off after 20 years. At some point, I’d figure out a way to leave messages for the future and really start messing with them as best as possible. Maybe for each person I leapt into, I would get on an airplane and fly my new body (when or where possible) to some place, maybe a place like Hawai’i or Puerto Rico and just stay there until I was forced to leap again. I would even leave a note with my former body explaining who I was and what had happened, and what to say when they were found. I would do this with every new person, over and over again, until there was a legion of new bodies on the same island, or at least had been on the same island, stating the same thing: “I am Dr. Sam Beckitt. I am from the future and am part of a US government program dealing with time travel. Each of the persons reading this note are uniquely different and I brought them all here, while I was inhabiting their body. I am trying to get back home. Please help!”, or something to that effect (it’s probable that this wouldn’t work when you consider the potential true effects of going back in time and doing the things that Sam was (or is) doing on the show, but I don’t want to go into that line of reasoning in this post).
Think about how odd it would be if a bunch of people appeared, in the same area, over and over again, saying the same thing, while truly being confused as to how they got there. At some point, someone would have to acknowledge what I was doing. It would be written about in the papers. I would do this so that the future would know that I was still alive and that it was time for them to “put right what once went wrong”. Yet, something tells me that the character of Sam Beckitt wouldn’t do this, he was too hard-headed about doing what he felt was right and I believe he would’ve kept doing the same thing over and over again; helping others to fix what was wrong in their life.
Given all of this, I also recognize that there’s a problem with going back and changing things from what they were. You inevitably wipe out who you are and what you’ve become. Those who know you may never know you and the elements that were introduced in your life throughout the years to shape you, could be different and thus, shape you differently. And, this has another effect: you change everyone that knew you as well as those who know them, and so on. Because your interaction with them may have shaped them in some way and with time being as fickle as I believe it to be, who are any of us to be so selfish to go back and change things that may be so insignificant to each of us, but can have great transcending effects to everyone that have eclipsed our circle of life? Even the person who may have a life that is currently in turmoil or may have been hurt in a manner that is beyond any experience of being laid off, may have found strength in that circumstance that have impacted others to bring awareness to their cause, or to make someone strong enough to go through their personal dilemma.
I think about this now, because I am curious if I had the opportunity to go back in time to change something, would I? Would I change the fact that I am laid off, by letting myself know of the impending doom really early and finding a way out? Would I had even went farther back in time to put myself on to a different course? Would I have told others and impacted their futures as well? Sure, I have some regrets and desires that I wish I had done differently. Vices that I took part in that I wish I never had. Even with all of this, I recognize that who I am today is based on who I was yesterday; last week; last month and all the years before today. I’d like to believe that I wouldn’t go back to change anything, no matter how bad or great it would be to see how it would play out (in reality, I would never know how it would play out, because it wouldn’t be new to me anymore), but it’s hard to say what you really wouldn’t do when the situation presents itself to do something you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. If I were to make this change, I would simply walk a different path and possibly eclipse different people in my life’s journey, inevitably becoming something different then I was (even though there would have never been a was). It would be such a dynamic change that all of the people that I know now and have impacted my life; I take the gamble on erasing from my life and their effects on me, due to a few sour experiences, which in their own way have groomed me into the person I am today, for better or for worse. And, as it was stated in the movie Batman Begins, “Why do we fall down? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Those sour experiences have taught me how to pick myself up, and if I were to go back in time and make changes that lead to an easier and wealthier life, then what would I have learned? To be honest, that is a question that I’ll never be able to answer, because there is no way to make that comparison.
In dealing with this idea, I have to also come back to Quantum Leap, because as I said, Dr. Sam Beckitt is still leaping and I want him to come home. He is still changing the past for a future he is unable to be a part of anymore. Constantly doing what he deems to be right, to fix a wrong, to continue leaping with the hope that he will leap back home at some point. Nevertheless, isn’t the dilemma of doing something like going back in time to change the past to affect your future, or someone else’s future, one in which you potentially continue doing over and over again? When would you stop and how would you know when you should stop? What if you missed some minor detail and that leads you to have everything you ever wanted, but some other detrimental effect comes with it? As we all know, life isn’t perfect and neither are we. Given this fact, it’s highly improbable we could ever do something so perfectly as to fix every element of time to give us what we wanted without affecting something else negatively. With that being said, if the show hadn’t ended the way it did, I probably wouldn’t even care enough about it right now to write this blog post and maybe that was the hope of the writers, to care. To realize that nothing is perfect and we all can’t have the outcomes we would like, but we must deal with our choices or the choices that have been pushed upon us (after all, it was Sam’s choice to start leaping by using himself as the first major test of his system) and strive to do the best we can with what we have been given. Maybe this was their way of “putting right what once went wrong”.
I never said I wouldn’t take the opportunity to go back in time. Seriously, who knows, I could somehow luck out and make choices that are so imperfect that they yield a perfect outcome. You know, like being in Costa Rica with that beautiful woman next to me; sipping the pleasures of a great drink; plenty of cash to fund this lifestyle and maybe the only detrimental effect is that I am missing a toe from my left foot! That’s a scenario that I could live with and I hope my friends, family or acquaintances of this timeline wouldn’t be mad at me for changing my past that yielded this out come, :-D. On the other hand, to be truthful, I probably would go back in time to experience the act of time travel and observe myself in the past, from the perspective of a third party (that third party being me, as an adult from the future). That would be enough, because that would be awesome or cool enough for me, I think.