Time, a theory brought to you by the Tralfamadorians.
“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist” (26-27)
Unlike humans, the Tralfamadorians do not see time as one continuous line, always going forward, never being able to travel back. For them, all time exists at once and always will. While it may go over some people’s heads at first, this idea is, in fact, reasonable, just like everything else concerning the Tralfamadorians. Still, while it may be understandable, I’ve found first hand just how hard it is to keep that reasoning in mind.
Recently, I attended the funeral of someone close to me. It was about a couple of weeks after I’d finished Slaughterhouse-Five, in fact. And while I tried to remind myself that this person was still alive and well in the past, it didn’t seem to ease the heaviness I felt in my heart. As well, it seemed silly and insensitive to attempt to enlighten those hurting around me with such a theory. Yes, we know he is fine in the past, but humans have not yet acquired the ability to visit those we have lost via time-travel. All we have is the present, and all we will have is the future, and a future of endless possibilities without someone who has lost all theirs is something worth crying about, at least to us.
Imagine the possibilities if everyone had the ability to become unstuck in time? But then, we would never truly be living in the present would we? Or would we, because all time is the present if it’s all happening at once. Perhaps our view of the world as one continuous string is what keeps us grounded, in the present, and gives us hope to all the possibilities and mysteries of the future.