About Time

“Aging Beauty” by dlerps is licensed with CC BY-ND 2.0.

About Time is a 2013 film about a man with the ability to travel in time, which he used to change his past in hopes of improving his future. The movie had a simple but profound message: to find happiness, live each day as if it were your last. The key to understanding this message may be found in Todd May’s book on Death (2009, p. 47): “Mortality offers meaning to the events of our lives, and morality helps us navigate that meaning. If one lives a limited amount of time, then it matters how one lives and acts.

Our mortality – the fact that we are only going to be around for a certain amount of time guides us to contemplate the importance and meanings of our lives. This sense of mortality leads us to want to evaluate our lives – the past as well as the present.

Consciously or not, many of us subjectively evaluate past memories as well as objects from the past. If we were asked to describe something we remember, we review a range of memories to come up with something that was momentous and fond to us. Let us take the old trolley bus as an example. Reminiscent of a time when the city was less developed, the pace of life was a little slower, and when bus trips were checked by bus conductors, its mortality contributes to our contemplation of a romanticised era that is long gone. But herein lies the problem with such a contemplation: we often review and selectively remember the best of our past only to compare them with the harshness of our present times.

The old trolleybus may still be here, but the times supporting its operations are long gone. What is the point of connecting something from the past to the present? How do we make such connections meaningful? Who is boarding the bus in the present and how do they connect to the passengers of the past? What values, if any, are we connecting with via the old trolleybus?

May, T. (2009). Death. Durham: Routledge.

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