Are you ready to swap bodies? For fun? For profit?
Wait, there’s more!
We’ll swap bodies AND do some time travel at the same time.
But first, let’s set the scene.
In my favorite hardware store the other day. Stu, one of the owners, was having a semi-political discussion with Pete, a customer. Stu is incorrigible, irascible, and constantly wearing a snarly face; and that’s on his good days. Pete is a tall, barrel chested, clean shaven, square jawed, silver-crew cut of a man. Pete was bemoaning the current state of the economy, government, especially complaining about our “imperial president.”
In his own diplomatic fashion, Stu said “All I know is that we didn’t have to start working 7 days a week until the first year of this President’s term.”
Right there, in that instant, time stopped and I froze the scene. My time travel body swap was ready.
Our 20 trillion dollar economy is so large that no one president can impact it very much in one year, let alone two or three. Whatever pain the owner was feeling came from the previous president. And that even assumes the president truly has much influence over the economy anyway.
But as people, as humans, we’re not geared that way. We like to look at our local gods, whether they are good or evil, and blame them. Whether Obama likes it or not, most people deify him – and not always in a good way. Ultra conservatives give him credit for destroying our future, our way of life, and the Constitution. Pretty good for a guy who’s limited to running the executive branch and vetoing the occasional bill.
As a nation, as intelligent adults, we should be smarter than to deify anyone. We should know by now that the economy is large and complex. That policies put in place 5 years, 10 year, even 50 years earlier could be impacting us today. We shouldn’t be measuring our pleasure and our pain by the year of someone’s reign.
Yet here was an American, doing just that.
Body swap: Stu becomes Japanese.
Did you know the Japanese still have an emperor? In fact, they claim they’ve had a continuous line of emperors since 700 years before the common era (BCE).
But what’s even more fun is that we can stick Stu into a Japanese body, and get him to say the exact same thing. Because many Japanese measure life events in terms of their current emperor’s reign.
Stu could say something like “Business was terrible in the first year of the Chrysanthemum Throne (1989).” Or, “The first decade of the Chrysanthemum Emperor was all recession.”
Many Japanese remember their birthdays or anniversaries based on the emperor’s reign. How quaint. Are they also blaming the emperor for what is good or bad? Perhaps. But the very fact that they mark time based on a celebrity instead of a more objective system says something in itself.
Time swap: Stu becomes Egyptian
In that next moment, I can take Stu and put him into the desert sun of the upper Nile. Pharaoh Sesostris III has undertaking great tasks to unite many separate states into a greater Egyptian empire. It’s 2,000 years BCE. The pyramids aren’t quite yet built, but paper and mathematics are well on their way. Meanwhile, most of humanity is still running around in skins.
And what do we find Stu the farmer doing back in the days of Sesostris? According to written records, we know that his harvest, his battles, and his marriages and births are all being recorded based on the year of Sesostris’s reign. In year one I got married. In year two we gave birth to a son. In year three the harvest was good, and so on.
Time swap, body swap: Returning to the present.
So, I smiled at Stu and Pete. I may not agree with their politics, but in that instant I was able to watch Stu become a modern Japanese, and then an ancient Egyptian. As far as I can tell, he’s none the wiser.
But is humanity?