Introduction – a timely publication?

Having begun it several years earlier, I was inspired to finish this tongue-in-cheek poem about time travel during the 2017 ‘Philosopher in Residence’ program at the school where I was teaching. Dr Sam Baron (then at the University of Western Australia, now at the Australian Catholic University) has a particular interest in the philosophy of time, and during his week of residence gave a public lecture, as well as presenting at the Philosophy Club and engaging Middle and Senior School philosophy classes in stimulating discussions.

I think I’ll build a time machine

I think I’ll build a time machine
I’ve been putting it off, but now I’m keen
I’ve had enough of the here-and-now
I’m getting out and I’ll tell you how

Having delved in clandestine arts
And made a collection of suitable parts
A splendid contraption I will create
With a platinum dial to set the date

Mr Wells himself could only praise
What I will make in a matter of days:
Velvet upholstery and sprung suspension
No roughing it in the fourth dimension

Gone will be my erstwhile complaints
Re irksome chronological constraints
I’m dreaming now of things I’d see
My apparatus having set me free

Just think of all the historical gaps
That time travel could fill perhaps
Scholars will seek me out for sure
When bygone events remain obscure

Perhaps I’d learn how Tut expired
And after lunch, if I weren’t too tired
I’d seek out some first-class instruction:
In nuts-and-bolts pyramid construction

Don’t you think it would be pure bliss
To lend a hand at the Acropolis?
Or tour the agora and shoot the breeze
In company with Plato or Socrates?

How about a day at the Roman Forum
Observing niceties of senatorial decorum?
‘Watch out, Julius!’ I might shout
As Brutus takes his dagger out

I could settle an old theological dispute
A doctrinal riddle that’s ever been moot
Were I present as they rolled the stone
Would I find Jesus standing or prone?

With Leonardo I’d remain a while
Trying to fathom his model’s smile
Could I from her own lips glean
The secret of her enigmatic mien?

And what about that old canard
The authorial claim of the Immortal Bard
‘Listen Will!’ I might demand
‘Are these lines in your own hand?’

I fancy myself as a time-travelling sleuth
Uniquely positioned to uncover the truth
A pipe-smoking timelord with flat feet
The Doctor Who of Baker Street

Already I hear the obvious objections
About making past-tense corrections
Could the turning back of clocks
Precipitate chronic paradox?

If the present is the culmination
Of each preceding situation
Then meddling in anterior events
Would likely entail serious consequence

Take, for example, the following case
(Which might become commonplace):
I visit my father in his childhood home
And ‘delete’ the ancestral chromosome

Not only would you think me bad
Invading the past to murder Dad
Could I even accomplish that
Had I dispatched him ere he begat?

And what if I gifted to a younger me
The blueprint for chronical mobility
Could I be said to invent my device
Not once, but twice, or even thrice?

And furthermore, consider this:
If days of yore no longer exist
My attempt to evade ineluctable fate
In premature extinction may terminate

I might resolve, upon reflection
To try my luck in the other direction
Pursuing, as it were, a different enquiry
Beyond the hour of my eventual expiry

Gods of time might think me ingrate
Refusing to accept a terminal date
Unsatisfied with my allotted span
A mortal threescore-years-and-ten

On second thoughts, it might be best
Not to put these things to test
The ancient myths a truth do tell:
Such acts of hubris don’t end well

All things considered, I must postpone
And muddle through this lone time-zone
I’ll store components for the duration
Pending subsequent consideration

3 August 2017

Copyright Simon Kidd