How might we be able to become “unstuck in time” in our own way?
“Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next” (23)
Many people have expressed the feeling of “being back somewhere” when they see an old photograph or video. They remember where they were and what they were doing at that exact moment, and for a second, it feels as though they’ve been “transported back in time”. But they most probably have the power to control their thoughts, and by extension, where they would “travel to”, which is the opposite of Billy.
What if being unstuck in time was as simple as recalling a memory? However, “neurologists have shown that each time we remember something, we are reconstructing the event” (Ken Eisold, Mar. 12, 2012), making our memories not as reliable as we may think.
As well, contrary to when Billy Pilgrim travels back and forth, when we recall a memory, it is more like we are an objective third party rather than right in the middle of all the drama.
Could becoming unstuck in time simply mean living in the present? Or is that too easy, if we are to believe the Tralfamadorians in saying that all time is the present? In the moment then, the ability to become unstuck in time has allowed Billy to always live in the moment. He does not need to worry about the self he left in 1944 or ’52 or ’76, because he is too busy remembering role he plays in the current period of time where he stands.
What about dreaming- when we go to sleep and live in a world created by our subconscious. But the fact is that dreams, though some may be based on reality, are fictional. Some may be recreations of the past, but like I said before, our memories are not the most reliable. Some may hint at the future, but we can never know for sure, at least, not in that present moment.
To become unstuck in time could also mean not being controlled by time, not allowing the past to torment us or the future to scare us. We could separate ourselves from time in a way that makes us unaffected by it, like Billy, at least not emotionally or mentally. Physically, of course, we would still have to subject to time in that sense.
In the end, I believe it’s up to the reader’s interpretation what Vonnegut meant by becoming unstuck in time. And it is only to the limits of our imagination that our abilities to do so stop.