December 7th, 2007


Song Info (from Beatlesongs): “Yesterday” is on the Help! album (and is probably one of the most famous Beatle songs ever – it’s certainly the most covered, having more than 2,500 artists covering it by 1980). Authorship is 100% McCartney, and the group was surprised by how big a hit it became. Lennon had this to say about it: “Wow, that was a good ‘un,” and “Well done. Beautiful – and I never wished I’d written it.”

As far back as I can remember, I’ve liked science fiction. We didn’t watch much TV while I was growing up, but I have vague recollections of watching episodes of Dr. Who and Star Trek with my dad here and there. My earliest recollection of Star Trek is actually one of my earliest recollections of being scared. Our family was over at another family’s house and the parents were all talking (and probably playing Rook), and we kids were in the other room flipping through the channels. One of the channels was showing Star Trek, so we stayed on that channel for a while. Come to find out, the episode showing was “The Man Trap,” which featured a salt vampire that would kill people by sucking all the salt out of them. If you click that link, you’ll get an episode synopsis and a picture of the thing that scared me for a couple days following. It still looks creepy to me today, but I know a bit more about special effects and costumes and the like, so I’m not afraid of it anymore.

A big staple of sci-fi is time travel. Dr. Who was centered on it (what with him being a Time Lord and all) and several episodes of Star Trek featured it, including what is widely considered the best episode of Trek ever, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Plenty of TV shows and movies use time travel as a device – Quantum Leap, Back to the Future, the Terminator series, and even Somewhere in Time for the romance-minded set.

What’s the appeal? Why is it so intriguing to visit a time long since past or see a possible future? It’s a combination of knowing and dreaming, I think. Imagining what the future could be is mind-boggling. Cast back 100 years and imagine them knowing all the advances we’ve seen since then. Now apply that to the next 100 years. It’s funny to see what Popular Mechanics predicted even 50 years ago, and there’s no way to know what life will be like.

We read books and see pictures or paintings from long ago and we wonder what it would have been like “back then.” It would be nice to just know, wouldn’t it? To know for a fact, rather than deal in conjecture. I’ve long thought it would be awesome to somehow travel back in time and be able to video historical events – the meetings of our Founding Fathers, the birth of Christ, JFK’s assassination (probably would be best with a 3-camera setup), Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address… It would be so neat to see these events as they actually happened.

For me time travel ties in with the age-old “what would you do differently?” question often asked as a get-to-know-you question in groups. For me that question is almost paralyzingly broad – I’ve seen enough sci-fi to know that even a small change at a critical point could make huge differences down the line. If I hadn’t pretended to trip David S. in first grade and gotten an unearned spanking when he tripped himself and blamed it on me, would my course through my elementary grades been different? Would my “well, if I’m going to get spanked for things I didn’t do I might as well do things to actually earn spankings” attitude never have been born? If I hadn’t chosen to sing on the bus too and from school every day, would I have avoided creating the weirdo outcast image I stuck myself with? It’s impossible to tell. We don’t get the chance to re-live our lives.

For me, these thoughts lead directly into “What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time?” First – and I have given this a lot of thought – you’d have the problem of convincing your younger self of who you were. If you couldn’t do that, why should this younger you pay any more attention to older you than any other adult in younger you’s life at the time? I hit upon the idea of writing a series of letters, to be opened at certain moments in time, some with records of events (“Hey, today you got hit in the head with a basketball at recess. Sorry I didn’t tell you about it sooner, but I needed you to know that I was the real deal.”) and some with advice (“When you’re tempted to tell [NAME OMITTED] tomorrow that you like like her, don’t. It will just mess up your friendship.”). Still, I’d have problems with specific dates because I can’t remember them, and younger me would probably open them all up and read them ahead of time and it would really mess him up, maybe more so than he already was.

And, really, how would you tell your younger self to change?

“Hey, it’d really help me out if you could develop some sort of eagerness to study and willingness to work hard on things.”

“Uh… okay. How?”

“I don’t really know, as I didn’t figure it out when I was younger. Also, stick with the piano playing, as it would be better for you than the football thing turned out. Also, try to learn how to like food that’s good for you. Oh, and start saving money. Got all that? Don’t make me travel back through time again, mister. If I happen to run into my future-self here in the past, there could be trouble, and I’m not talking about in-school suspension kind of trouble, like you’ll have in your sophomore year of high school.”


“Nothing, just forget it.”

In pondering all the changes I’d make, though, I’m struck with the thought that if I made them, I wouldn’t be who I am now. Most of our important life lessons are learned through mistakes that we’ve made. If I somehow were able to avoid the ones I have made, I’d most likely make completely different ones, thereby learning different lessons and, in the end, becoming a different person. I wouldn’t know the people I do, I wouldn’t have the friends I have, I wouldn’t know this life at all. Time travel paradoxes aside, there’s too much that could go screwy with even just a little bit of fiddling.

While it’s fun and even good to reflect on yesterday, it’s bad to focus so much on it that it cripples your forward progress.

3 Comments on “Yesterday”

  1. theo b. scure says:

    Who are you trying to fool? You'd go back, start to say something, then see something shiny in the room . . . 12 hours later Kid You would still be beating you at whatever video game.

  2. The Big Guy says:

    Did you know another star trek movie is coming out?

    Do you own the star trek movies? up for a marathon?

  3. M. Kate says:

    I've read this several times now…I'm just not sure how to comment about it. However, I am publically announcing that I've read it and it's been worth reading more than a few times.

    I'm waiting to hear something about Esther and me being pretty, though. :)

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