Time Travel Art Collab

It’s done. Whatever it was that you sought to cre­ate — an art project, poet­ry, writ­ing, per­for­mance, etc. — it’s done! Finishing your project gives you a cer­tain sense of accom­plish­ment that’s unpar­al­leled. You’ve worked hard on it, and you’ve come out with fly­ing col­ors. You’re proud of what you’ve just built, and it might just stay with you for­ev­er.

Fast-for­ward one year lat­er. You pluck that mon­u­ment from the dust of the past into the present. The mon­u­ment, your project, has your name on it. What you see before is some­thing of great poten­tial, might make you feel that it “could have been bet­ter”, or per­haps even fill you with a regret. But most impor­tant­ly, the reflec­tion of the one who built it — your past self — has very lit­tle resem­blance to who you actu­al­ly are now.

Sound famil­iar?

This isn’t some­thing new or unique. We’ve all been there. The feel­ing is very human, and it has been dis­cussed by many peo­ple in many ways. Many psy­chol­o­gists have stud­ied this phe­nom­e­non and have come up with inter­est­ing con­clu­sions that we could nev­er know even by our own expe­ri­ences, sim­ply because we are con­fined by a per­spec­tive of real­i­ty that only we can ever expe­ri­ence.

But as much as we believe that it is a rigid part of our iden­ti­ty, that per­spec­tive does not real­ly stay with you. That per­spec­tive is fleet­ing reflec­tion on the waves of time that slow­ly but sure­ly alter the way we see our real­i­ty. The more you see, and the more you pay atten­tion, the like­ly it is that you will com­pre­hend the big­ger pic­ture by the end of the film. But if we don’t pay atten­tion (espe­cial­ly because, as human beings, our mem­o­ries are mal­leable to begin with), sig­nif­i­cant details will pass by and the rest of the sto­ry ahead in time doesn’t make much sense, and thus we sub­con­scious­ly ratio­nal­ize every­thing with our bias­es. Because we sub­con­scious­ly feel we need to.

With every pass­ing moment we change, depend­ing on what sort of waves of expe­ri­ences may affect us — or what sorts we allow to affect us — and the riv­er of time carves new land­scapes in our own bod­ies, so that by the time we look at our­selves in the mir­ror we may not real­ly be the same per­son we began as. Maybe we are bet­ter than we start­ed off as (at least that’s what we all hope), or maybe we allow our­selves to erode and become worse over time. It’s a very com­mon sit­u­a­tion where a stranger would have more in com­mon with us than we would have any­thing in com­mon with our past selves. Problem is that, with­out any records of our past selves, we are only left to com­pare our­selves with either frag­ments of a faulty mem­o­ry, or some­one else entire­ly, and we often lose track of how far we’ve come.

I think this is one of the rea­sons why psy­chol­o­gists often rec­om­mend hav­ing a diary. I think this is also one of the rea­sons why Art helps in so many ways to express and explore, because we record the fin­ger­prints of our soul into every­thing we make. If you dis­re­gard the dis­trac­tion of com­par­i­son to every­thing else, then you know why you love what you just cre­at­ed: It is clear reflec­tion of the “You Right Now”, a chance to see your­self with your own sens­es and not a sec­ond-hand inter­pre­ta­tion by some­one else. This serves as both cathar­sis as well as self-actu­al­iza­tion. Because they can’t be altered like our bio­log­i­cal short­com­ings, so long as they stay record­ed, those “pho­tographs” — those fin­ger­prints — become immor­tal­ized.

And because Art is also “con­ver­sa­tion”, what’s inter­est­ing is that your past selves can also use it as ves­sel to Time Travel into the future to talk to peo­ple. Don’t believe me? Pick any book from decades, or hun­dreds, or THOUSANDS of years back, and lat­er a cri­tique of it. It’s a dia­logue! You can not only hear the voic­es and dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties of the authors speak­ing from the pages long past their demise, but also notice that their state­ments lie smack-dab in between the works they may be inspired by (or as a response to) and the works they may end up inspir­ing (or respons­es they may pro­voke). This is, and has always been, a cor­ner-stone of Art Movements, and you can sense it in the var­i­ous incar­na­tions of Sherlock Holmes on the big and small screens: The the­atri­cal adap­ta­tions being inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s inven­tions, which took ele­ments from the cas­es of Auguste Dupin (by Edgar Alan Poe). Fast-Forward into the future, and you have a com­mer­cial­ly suc­cess­ful ani­mé and man­ga series called “Case Closed”, which was direct­ly inspired by these great fic­tion­al detec­tives of the past!

And it doesn’t end there, because there also lies artis­tic crit­i­cism — and hence dia­logue. As much as we love to believe Sherlock Holmes to be a per­fect ratio­nal­ist, he wasn’t in the canon writ­ten by Doyle, con­sid­er­ing his fail­ure due to con­ven­tion­al bias­es in “Scandal of Bohemia”, and his pseu­do­sci­en­tif­ic under­stand­ing of the human brain in “The Blue Carbuncle”. This is some­thing that many pas­tich­es, includ­ing the BBC adap­ta­tion, loose­ly played on, where Mycroft mocks his broth­er for it.

How does that apply to our lives? How does that apply to us specif­i­cal­ly?

Our cur­rent selves are all we have of what defines our iden­ti­ty now, and it’s not some­thing that set in stone. We are always chang­ing, so much that our past and future selves might as well be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent peo­ple shar­ing our name and exis­tence. Our future selves are not absolute, we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty towards them — towards our­selves — to dri­ve our­selves into a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion than we might be at the giv­en moment. Diaries and art may give us a clear­er pic­ture of where we were and where we might be right now, as if cre­at­ing maps of our lives to make sure that we don’t keep run­ning around in cir­cles. So when you invest enough efforts today, not just finan­cial­ly but also by devel­op­ing cru­cial skills, you try to com­mu­ni­cate with your future self, say­ing, “Hey, I’m going make sure that by the time you begin, you’ll have a great head­start so you’ll get to focus only on what you’ve always dreamed of doing.”

The only prob­lem is that your future self might not share the same dreams and visions as you do right now. Just as you don’t share the same dreams and visions your past self once had. The child in the past who want­ed to be an astro­naut or a pilot no longer shares the same fas­ci­na­tion that you have today, but that’s not always a bad thing. If your past self invest­ed any time into the mon­u­ments he want­ed to build, those mon­u­ments will still try to speak to you today. Some of us don’t appre­ci­ate the fault­i­ness and imper­fec­tions of those mon­u­ments made of bad hand­writ­ing and impre­cise cray­on col­or­ing. But the truth is that we only ever look down on our­selves is because we are stand­ing on it; those mon­u­ments are pre­cise­ly what makes us who we are today, and it is a great feel­ing to real­ize that our past younger selves once looked up in admi­ra­tion towards this future ide­al self we are right now. Everyone begins some­where. Everyone needs some encour­age­ment. Encouraging our past selves to keep deter­mined towards their dream allows us to be more empa­thet­ic, and stronger towards the adver­si­ties that may come our way.

Art has always been a dia­logue with your­self. This is why the method of Drafts, Revisions and Editing always works — the past self might have BRILLIANT ideas but flawed meth­ods, the present self has GREAT meth­ods and could add more con­cepts to the plate, and the future enlight­ened self can help pol­ish every­thing into one coher­ent whole. What you end up with is some­thing so per­fect and so BEYOND your­self that you may doubt if you — on your own — could ever have cre­at­ed it. There were always three authors cre­at­ing that mas­ter­piece: Me, Myself and I.

The only “You” right now is the “You Right Now”.

Will you write a let­ter to your future self? I’m pret­ty sure they might be look­ing for­ward to hear from you! It might even be the begin­ning of a new friend­ship.


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