Time of the Ghost - Spoilers, questions on the ending

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Thu Apr 5 12:49:29 EDT 2001

Jacob, quoting me:

>>Well, I should be rushing off to a rehearsal, but I shall just try and type
>>another idea:
>>This relates to my idea that ypu can't change the future either.  There is
>>one future, but WE BUILD IT.
>>Monigan's getting Julian instead of Sally wasn't the result of a _change_ made
>>anywhere.  It was always going to happen that way.  All the events in the book
>>lead up to this.
>>For Monigan, all times run side by side.  Therefore it matters not a whit to
>>that advice given now is acted upon seven years ago.  So there's no reason for
>>this to cause a change.
>>"Meant to have Julian all along?"  Perhaps not.  But if all times run side by
>>side, she knew that's what would happen.  And it didn't matter to her that
>>were going to be able to save Sally, because Julian had also dedicated
>>To the human characters, these things did matter.  The future may be
>>to change, but it is still what we make it.  So Sally was indeed saved by the
>>various actions of the characters.  As for which actions, I'm still not sure.
>>Even if it is Imo's gift of her musical career, I don't think it's as clear
>>as you make out.  But then it's not meant to be...
> Ick.  Determinism.

Well, sort of, but not very.  I am not a determinist - I do not even like most
versions of the Christian doctrine of predestination.

I certainly don't think that we have no power to _affect_ the future.  I merely
don't like multiple time streams, except as separate worlds, Chrestomanci style
(i.e. if there are two time streams, they both happen, just in separate worlds).

Thus I don't like the idea of "changing" the future, in the sense that it
implies that there was one thing in the future, and now there is something else;
as I see it the future was that the change was going to take place.

> You also tend to equate Monigan with the Christian ideal
> of omnipotent/omniscient.  Monigan is neither.  Just because time runs side
> by side for her doesn't make her all-knowing let alone all-powerful.  I like

No.  Definitely not.  (You seem very confident in your assertions of how I
think, BTW...)

Monigan is certainly not omnipotent, and nothing I said has any implication in
that direction.

Omniscient?  Well, my ideas could be interpreted that way, but I certainly
didn't mean that.

I'll try and explain again, in less haste this time:

I see a chain of cause and effect running through the events.  I'm not totally
sure where it goes - hence in part this discussion in the first place! - but it
is a single chain.

The chain of cause and effect is not linear with time.  It goes back and forth
between the two times - Sally in hospital and the time of the ghost.  This is
not because the past or future change, but it allows events in the past to be
the result of decisions in the future as well as the more usual converse.  So
the girls do in some sense effect Sally's salvation (in a Moniganic sense -
let's leave out the Christian sense here!).

Since all times run side by side for Monigan, the zig-zag nature of the chain of
cause and effect doesn't matter.  However the actual chain itself does.

I don't think Monigan meant to have Julian all along.  If she were omnipotent
she would have got Sally, no argument.  If she were omniscient, she would have
been able to plan (for want of a better word - see below) better.  As we read in
the book, some times are in the focus of her attention, others at the edges.  By
taking the chain of cause and effect outside Monigan's field of view, the girls
are able to save Sally.

One characteristic of my (Christian) view of God that I do see as applying to
Monigan is timelessness.  We humans experience a sequence of events, and it is
difficult to imagine a being for whom events are not a sequence.  But I think
that is the case for Monigan - events to her are objects in a four-dimensional
scene which she views, as it were.  (Hence why I didn't like "planning" to refer
to Monigan's setting this up)

> the idea of (the reader) holding mutual time-streams in consideration and
> working out where things change and their downstream effects and the free
> will that gives the characters to influence the past *and* future.

I don't like that idea, because I think it generates paradoxes.

Take the four-dimensional landscape again.  In a multiple-world model, there are
further dimensions - call them Andwards/Eckwards (Lewis), or Ayewards/Naywards
(Jones) [1].  Move along the fifth dimension, and you arrive in a different
four-dimensional landscape.  All the time streams exist.

If you take a single-world model, there is a four dimensional landscape again.
And you want it to be able to change - one version was true then, the other
version true now.  But you have a problem - "then" and "now" are only positions
along the time axis in the four dimensional landscape.  So what you end up with
is a composite - for the "then" part you take a slice out of the one
four-dimensional landscape, and for the "now" component you take a slice out of
another.  And you end up with a picture of what actually happened - as one might
look back on it.  But as far as I'm concerned, that was what was actually going
to happen anyway, the fact that it did being proof.

I have heard this argument extended to a total determinism, including a view
that any free will is illusion.  I disagree with this.  As a Christian, I have
no problem with a timeless _and_ omnipotent God providing feedback from free
will into predestination, although I have heard this very emphatically denied,
not least by the vicar of the church where I worship.

I can't really think of a better way of describing what I mean than that I used
last night: There is only the one future, but we build it.  The future is the
result of our decisions, which we make freely - but we only get the one chance
to decide.  We can never put the clock back - we don't change our decisions;
when we make new ones to replace the old, we must still live with the
consequences of the old ones.

For those on this list (all of you?) with what the Leicestershire Libraries'
advertising campaign called "The Fiction Addiction" I would recommend "Time is
the Simplest Thing" by Clifford D Simak.  He writes SF that comes very close and
often oversteps the boundary with fantasy.  The view of time presented therein
is not the same as mine, but it does present quite graphic images (is that a
tautology?) of a fixed past and a not-yet-decided future.

Perhaps a compromise could be reached by thinking of "potential futures" - of
which Monigan might grab the wrong one - and a single "actual future" that will
be selected from them.  We don't change actual futures, we select a potential
future and it becomes actual.  I think my father would like that - he's very
fond of "potency and act" arguments.  Hey!  He's certainly read TotG (I don't
think he liked it much, though) so perhaps I'll bring up the subject and see if
he does come up with that idea...

This has turned out much longer than I expected.  Oh well.


[1] See my next post.  I hope...

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