On Personal Travels Through Time

One hour in a time machine. All of history, past and future, is open to me. Where would I go?

I wouldn't be like the amateur time travelers of Desmond Warzel's short story "WikiHistory" where, as BigChill says in the story, "everybody kills Hitler on their first trip." Honestly, no interest in that.

I'd want to be a time tourist. I like being a tourist. It's what I do.

I know what I wouldn't do; I wrote recently that I want to live long enough to see the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies collide, five billion years hence, even though there's a chance that the universe won't last even that long. Why, even though it's something that I really want to see, wouldn't I venture that far? Perspective. Seeing an hour of the collision, which would occur as very tiny speeds over very long periods of time, wouldn't be an especially interesting thing to see if one's only limited to a single hour.

Answering long-standing historical mysteries doesn't hold much appeal, either. A trip to Judea in the early years of the 1st century CE? Blessed are the cheesemakers, indeed, but that's no reason for me to visit there. Fifth century Britain would be a more interesting place to visit, but I'm not sure that a single hour in a single random day in a single random year would answer the question of the historical Arthur.

Liverpool on the 6th of July, 1957, is bound to be filled with time travelers. That would be a reason to avoid seeing the Quarrymen gig at the Woolton Church fete where John Lennon met Paul McCartney, though a visit to the Cavern Club a few years later, to see the Beatles in their native environment would be worthwhile. But that's not where I'd visit, either.

Attending the Gettysburg Address or Lincoln's Second Inauguration would be interesting, especially the former. Still not where I'd visit, though.

A trip back in time to get Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27, or even just to hold them, would be cool, from a purely geeky point of view. That's close to what would interest me, if I had an hour in a time machine and all of history at my disposal.

A puckish part of me would want to take a leather-bound copy of The Lord of the Rings, take it back in time, and stash it inside some medieval monastery's library. What would scholars make of that! Getting closer.

I'd want to visit the Great Library of Alexandria.

No, I wouldn't be able to read a single thing. I'd probably be far too terrified to handle a single scroll, like the astronomical works of Aristarchus or the lost dialogues of the Greek philosophers. (To be honest, I live in abject fear that my own "Eudemus" was exact in every particular to Aristotle's lost manuscript.) Within the Library's walls was reputed to be the entirety of human knowledge. Travelers who came to Alexandria were forced to surrender their books so that copies could be made. In a city of many gods and faiths, the Great Library worshiped its own god — human knowledge.

The Library was burned by Julius Caesar.

Just an hour, to be surrounded by the collected knowledge of mankind.

Yes, I can get that just by visiting Google, but it's not the same. To feel the parchment, to hear the echo of footfalls on the marble floors, to see scribes hurrying to and fro in their quest for knowledge — that's worth an hour from a time machine, surely.

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