The road not taken

Wienachtsdorf am Bellevue, Zürich, 23 December 2015:

The book I bought today, among other books I spoiled myself buying in Zürich before meeting my wife and enjoying the splendor that is Zürich´s Christmas market, is mentally burning a hole in my backpack.

The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Science Fiction ponders the question:

What happens when we meddle with time?

Once we move outside the present day, can we ever return or do we move into an alternate world?

What happens if our meddling with nature leads to time flowing backwards or slowing down or even stopping all together?

Are past and future immutable or might we one day escape the inevitable?

Bedford Falls, New York, Christmas Eve 1945:

George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, finds himself despondent and contemplates suicide.

Prayers for him reach Heaven.

Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, is assigned to save George in order to earn his angel wings.

To prepare Clarence, his superior Joseph shows flashbacks of George´s life.

Before George can jump, Clarence jumps into the river and pretends to be drowning.

George rescues him, but does not believe Clarence´s claim to be George´s guardian angel.

When George wishes he had never been born, Clarence shows him what life would have been like without him.

When It´s A Wonderful Life premiered at the Globe Theatre in New York City on 20 December 1946, it received mixed reviews:

Bosley Crowther, New York Times, 23 December 1946:

“The weakness of this picture, from this reviewer´s point of view, is the sentimentality of it – its illusionary concept of life.  Mr. Capra (director / producer / screenplay writer)´s nice people are charming, his small town is a quite beguiling place and his pattern for solving problems is most optimistic and facile, but somehow they all resemble theatrical attitudes rather than average realities.”

FBI memo, 26 May 1947:

“With regard to the picture It´s A Wonderful Life, the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers…This is a common trick used by Communists…This picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show people who had money were mean and despicable characters.”

And it still receives mixed reviews:

Wendell Jamieson, New York Times, 18 December 2008:

“It is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people.  It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife.”

Richard Cohen, Salon.com, 24 December 2010:

“It is the most terrifying Hollywood film ever made.  In the alternate world sequence of Pottersville, George is not seeing the world that would exist had he never been born, but rather the world as it does exist, in his time and also in our own.”

Britain´s Channel 4 ranked It´s a Wonderful Life as the 7th greatest film ever made.

AFI acknowledged the film as the 3rd best film in the fantasy genre.

It´s a Wonderful Life received five Academy Award nominations.

Seeing this movie this evening and reading the wonderfully diverse collection of 25 mindbending science fiction stories has got me contemplating the importance of existence.

I look at my own life and the path that has led me here to this place, to this moment, and I wonder:

How would the world be had I never been born?

Unlike George Bailey I never saved anyone from drowning or prevented a druggist from potentially poisoning a customer.

Unlike George Bailey I never ran a business that allowed others to finance their own homes.

Though like George Bailey I also married, I don´t believe that my wife with her beauty and brains would have ended up as a timid spinster working at the library as George´s wife Mary Hatch did in the alternate world where George had never been born.

I truly believe she could have married a better man than myself, but I am egotistical enough to be certain that her alternate relationships would not have been as unique as our relationship, for better or worse, is.

I consider the paths I took to reach this time and place and I won´t deny that there are moments when I wonder:

What if?

What if I had done action B instead of action A?

What if I had followed pathway D instead of pathway C?

But like George Bailey needed to be reminded, I sometimes forget the effect that each of us have upon the lives we touch and have touched.

I sometimes forget what makes a man´s death meaningful is remembrance.

Without remembrance, he is just a wind that blew over the world and never left a trace.

As an old year´s embers die down and the spark of a new year awaits, I ask myself:

How would I like to be remembered?

And as I contemplate who might read this blog, I ask each one of you:

How would you like to be remembered?

Carpe diem – Seize the day.

Make it happen.

 

 

 

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