Our lives are performed in dramatic arcs that intersect and reflect and repulse and reflex: Are we divinely predestined or merely reflexive? The other day, I was thinking back on when I was a young child and, feeling alone and frustrated, I would climb a cherry tree in our backyard to get away from all the noise and hubbub of earthly living. From my vantage point 20 feet in the air, I could smell the wind and get a sense of a horizon that was far and above my current station.
As I became that lonesome child in the tree again, I began to wonder what my beloved wife was doing at that same moment in time in her childhood. She was living only 60 miles away from me, but it would be another 20 years before we would meet and fall in love. I realize now that, back then, in that tree, I was dreaming of her.
What was the young Janna doing way back then on that hot summer day with the breeze promising better things to come? Was she in despair as well? Was she out running and laughing in the sun as is her wont today? I wanted to somehow go back in time and pinpoint that identical moment of precipice and sync our lives together from that instant onward to see how dramatically our life arcs wandered away from each other, and then finally came together, to meet in a moment of serendipity that repeats on a daily basis.
I have an idea I am calling — “The Asynchronous Lives in Parallel Project” — and it goes a little something like this: What if we were able to go back in asynchronous time and then sync our lives against the behaviors of others for reasons of compatibility, friendship and danger avoidance? We could pick a parallel intersection and then follow the unfolding of our lives in a historic, real-time arc, that might reveal moments of bright opportunity or loss. We could truly learn from ourselves and, each other, and, I wager, even begin to predict the future.
The most obvious way to achieve this forced synchronicity momentarily, and in spurts, is through the timeline features of Facebook and Twitter. The only problem, other than a technical one of actually syncing live together in parallel, is that there isn’t yet enough empirical evidence to make my idea truly cross the Uncanny Valley. Twitter and Facebook simply haven’t been around long enough for an older man to reflect back decades to a moment stuck on nigh in a high cherry tree.
As time expands, and as the universal coil unreels, there will be many opportunities for this sort of retroactive introspection, but I am concerned about the quality of the record that is being created. Do we really want to know what a person ate every day for 20 years, or do we need to ask more of them in recording these, now timeless, timeline events? How can we go back in time and learn our thought processes without inference, but with facts and references, if we are not prescient enough in active time to only put down what matters in the longer stretching of our lives?
Having lives in parallel be matched and evaluated in asynchronous time — that becomes a newly created real-time — is a useful compatibility tool and invaluable enemy identifier; but then the whole idea becomes ruined when you realize that law enforcement will start tracking your timeline life in order to predict how you will act and behave in the future as a threat to society. The irrational threats against nature and man-made by a temperamental child will come back to haunt the elder — and so we are left where we began; longing for a better life, and an escape from the inevitable, 20 feet up in the air with only a view from the cherry blossoms for comfort.