The meaning of Back to the Future considered


It’s Oct. 21, 2015 and, you may have heard via the non-stop news coverage of it, that it’s the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown programmed their DeLorean for in “Back to the Future II.” Never has a sequel gotten so much more attention than its predecessor.

No doubt, it’s fun to see how the movie predicted what the future would look like and how close it got to getting it right, its prediction of a Chicago Cubs World Series notwithstanding.

There isn’t a lot of deep thinking in the “Back to the Future” series, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to think about, including the deepest: our inability to understand the relativity of time.

It’s been 30 years since the original movie came out. Is that a lot? Or a little? It depends, perhaps, on how old you are. Thirty years is 30 years, but how we relate to it changes the longer we experience time.

For me, that’s the takeaway from the series and that’s the reason each movie resonates. The concept of time can give a person a headache.

When Marty McFly went back in time in the original, he met something he could barely comprehend: his parents as young people, with the same vulnerabilities every young person has. In that respect, he was every bit the same as his parents. We have difficulty relating to people older than us because we have difficulty relating to time.

And that is the tragedy of youth.

And you know this to be true the day you have your first child. Your parents suddenly appear significantly smarter.

That’s what an oldster is telling a whippersnapper every time s(he) advises that “the time goes faster than you think.” Young people rarely believe that until they get to be about the same age. But by then, the knowledge comes far too late to make a significant difference.

That’s not the message the film intended to make. It was just out for a good time; it wasn’t trying to get us to think about how we relate to each other by virtue of how we relate to time.

Pull out an old picture of your parents, preferably from around their age that you are now. Then think about how your life might be different if you knew then how young they really were.

Great Scott! They still are.