Friday Night Think Tank: Dead End Edition

Doc BrownWelcome to The Friday Night Think Tank, Modern Philosophers!

For our weekly philosophical gathering, I thought we’d change things up a little and wade down into the deeper end of the pool.  It’s been a weird week, so my mind is cluttered with more serious thoughts than usual.  Are you up for the change of pace?

Put on your Deep Thought Togas and let’s ponder on the end.  This great ride of ours does come to a screeching halt eventually.  What if you had the opportunity to know exactly when the meter runs out on your time on Earth?  Would you seize it?

This week’s topic: A mysterious stranger turns over his time machine to you.  He tells you that it has been programmed to deliver you to the moment of your death.  Do you hop into the time machine and speed off into the future to witness your passing?  Do you just glance at the console to discover when you die, but decline the offer to use the machine to watch it happen?  Do you flat out turn him down and run off without learning anything about how or when your time on this world ends?

dead-endI think I would walk away without finding out anything about my death.  First off, I was raised to never take Time Machines from strangers.  Secondly, I’m an anxious mess as it is, and I don’t even want to imagine how much worse I’d be if I were counting down to the exact moment of when I was going to die.

Life is stressful enough as it is.  One of the good things about it is that I never know what’s going to happen next.  It could all turn around in a split second, so I want to keep that hope alive.  If I knew when the final buzzer was going to sound, I just think I’d fall into this state of depression, constantly telling myself that I’m never going to get that big break, I’m never going to have kids, and I’m never to to win an Oscar because I only have exactly this much more time to live.

By keeping things open ended, it keeps my dreams alive.

What do you think, Modern Philosophers?  I bet there are several people in this Think Tank with me right now who will decide to get into the Time Machine and watch it all play out.  I need to know why you guys would do that.  Please share.

As always, there are no wrong answers.  This is a safe place to share Deep Thoughts, so tell us what you’re thinking.

I’m just dying to read your comments…



About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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60 Responses to Friday Night Think Tank: Dead End Edition

  1. I think I would jump in the time machine and watch it all play out.
    Because….I already tend to fall into a state of depression, constantly telling myself that I’m I’m not going to get that big break, and I already had kids and they are all grown up.
    Even if I find out when I am going to die, I won’t necessarily know if I won an Oscar during the time in between anyway. AND if I watched it all play out, and I didn’t like it what I saw….maybe I would just go decide that NOW I am going to bungee jumping, sky diving, and swimming with great white sharks down in the Great Barrier Reef. Gonna die anyway, you know. 😉

    • Austin says:

      That’s very brave of you. Of course, you didn’t have to mimic my list of deeper life questions. Those are mine…you must have questions about your own future, right? Thanks for being the first to share…and for selecting the scary option! 🙂

      • Actually, our life questions aren’t that far apart. I sang with the Hawaii Opera theater for 2 years, and the Washington National Opera for 13 years……I mean……if I was more outgoing, perhaps I could have gotten an award of some sort (maybe not an Oscar…but perhaps a pair of golden horns with braids attached). But the chance of that is gone.
        More of my life is behind me than ahead of me, so I don’t have many questions left. I majored in Philosophy (but I don’t have a white toga).I used to wonder if I would have kids, but I don’t wonder about that any more (I’m guessing that my daughter is probably close to your age). My father died of Alzheimer’s in 2011….so I AM worried that I might forget who I am too, and figuratively die before I am dead (hence the name of my blog: “Before I Forget”). The scary option for me at this point….is not knowing. If I could get in a time machine and watch the ending in advance, then maybe I would go swimming with some sharks now, just for the fun of it.
        If you have time and you want to see exactly what I think about life and death, and my time here on earth ….look at my post “Travel Agent from Hell.” 😉

    • SAINTS AND BEGORRA! (or however that saying goes!) I just wrote a poem about this! 🙂

      • Austin says:

        We must be on the same mental wavelength. Are you getting good reception on yours? Mine’s got a bit of static… 🙂

    • Austin says:

      I will check out that post. Thanks for telling me about it. And you should pick up a Toga…they’re really all the rage. 😉

  2. Ummm… I would visit the time of my death, and then push myself out of the path of the truck!

  3. O better yet, knock the jealous husband out from behind before he can shoot me. The other me.

  4. PSsquared says:

    I think I would turn him down immediately, and then hope he left quickly, so I couldn’t change my mind. I mean, how can you carpe diem if you know the final score? But it would be hard not to know the final score. Excellent question!

    • Austin says:

      Thank you, oh Captain, my Captain. I told you I was in a deep, dark thinking kind of mood tonight. Glad you enjoyed it. Ponder on… 🙂

  5. List of X says:

    I’d like to know, so that I’d know exactly how much I need to put into my 401k. And whether I will even need a 401k at all.

  6. Walk away, because it’s all a lie. There is no future, there is only now and what we decide now shapes what will be.

  7. floridaborne says:

    Some of us work better with…how should I say this? A deadline. 🙂

    When you have more life behind you than ahead, it’s easy to look back at the wasted moments and say, “What the hell was I thinking?” Some of my treasured memories would be another person’s wasted moments: Flying a kite on the Oregon shore, watching my daughter play soccer, the first time I heard someone call my son “doctor” after he’d earned his Ph.D., riding in a car with my sister through the French and Swiss mountains, and overcoming a fear of heights by climbing ladders, para-sailing, and jumping off a cliff attached to a cute French guy with nothing between us and certain death but a parachute.

    Would I hitch a ride on a time machine to witness the moment of my death? It would greatly depend upon which day you ask me. At this moment, I would have to say an unequivocal, “maybe.” 🙂

    • Austin says:

      So then is there an option in this week’s choices to which you’d give a definitive “yes”? Or are you pondering on option #1? You’re on a deadline here to answer me! 😉

      • floridaborne says:

        At this moment, I would jump on the time machine. Why? Just for the hell of it. Tomorrow? Who knows?

        I wonder if there would be a paradox if I wasn’t supposed to see my death but died prematurely of heart failure when I witnessed what was supposed to happen?

        If you’ll excuse me, I have a tree frog living in my laser printer and it just won’t shut up. Hard to think. Why the cats aren’t all over it is a mystery.

    • Austin says:

      Go find that frog!

  8. SW_ysobel says:

    I would thank him for his/her/it visit, offer him/her/it a cup of tea and calmly refuse his/her/its offer. My reason being that everybody dies, it’s a fact. And I very much prefer to live a life full of surprise than of expected moments. I’ll send him away with a box of chocolate.

    • Austin says:

      That’s very kind of you to offer him tea and chocolate. Glad to see there’s another person out there who likes the surprise of life option like I do. 🙂

  9. John says:

    The date would be handy, would be nice to know how long to make plans. I think witnessing it would be hard, there would be too many details (I’d imagine) that would work as ‘spoilers’. Who’s with me when I go,? is it sudden? and possibly the worst one, who’s *not* there? Are they missing because we parted ways or because I outlived them? Either way I don’t think I’d want to know. No, no time travel for me but I could use the date to be more realistic about the life I have, I often forget it’s finite and a date would be a constant reminder, hopefully in a good way, I’d like to think it would spur me on.

    • Austin says:

      That’s a very Deep Thought provoking answer. I like the way you’re approaching it…thinking it as a deadline so you can achieve your goals. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      • John says:

        No problem. When I was an undergrad I remember a big debate in one of our philosophy classes being whether you would take the red pill or the blue pill. I think I was one of the only ones to take the blue pill, I like my life here and life outside the matrix looks pretty dystopian. Not to mention, unlike Neo, I have family and friends who I’d miss if I stepped out into ‘reality’. Being informed is useful but being omnipotent/knowing something that no one else *can* know would drive you crazy, human psychology isn’t geared up for that level of awareness.

    • Austin says:

      It’s always good to go deep whether it be on the football field or in our thinking. Thanks for joining the Think Tank!

  10. Typehype says:

    Dwelling on when you will DIE is — or learning when and how that will be (after which point you will probably never stop dwelling on it!) — is that you might you forget to LIVE. I tend to go along with what St. Paul said, “I die every day.” That pretty much lets you off the hook. Reinvent yourself, one day at a time 🙂

    • Austin says:

      St Paul was pretty wise. Of course, any philosophy that brings to mind that old Bonnie Franklin sitcom is okay in my book… 😉

      • John says:

        Martin Heidegger proposed that an awareness of death as part of your own life allows you to be authentic as an individual. You can own your decisions, sure of the fact that they belong to specific individual, inhabiting a clear social space, who occupies a fixed stretch of time. Take away the awareness of mortality and the option to undo choices always seems open when in fact it isn’t; we don’t have an infinite stretch of time ahead of us so we should consider our choices with care and take ownership of them. I always think this supports a ‘seize the day’ perspective, though I can see how someone could read it otherwise. It makes the difference between things that just *happen* to you and things you wholeheartedly *choose* to do.

  11. Interesting topic. … Leads me to think of a seemingly healthy man in his late 50s with whom I am acquainted who went to the doctor for a check-up and tests. Bottom line – the doctor told him he had cancer and to start living his bucket list as he had only months to live. First on the list – he and his wife are going on a dream trip to the south of France. At the end of May … Moral: Dont wait for anyone’s diagnosis or the appearance of a time machine. Live each day to the fullest. None of us are promised tomorrow.

    • Austin says:

      That’s like what happened to my Dad, and the reason for my deep seeded fear of doctors. I’m afraid to go in and get that “Six months to live” diagnosis like he did. Guess I really would prefer not the know…

  12. amb says:

    I think my response would be very similar to SW_ysobel, above, although I don’t know if I’d be as polite about it as they were. Rather than send them on their way with tea and chocolates, I suspect it would be with a dramatic, “Why must you tempt me like this?!? WHHHHHHYYYY?!?!?!” Because while I like to think of myself as a person who would become productive and motivated once they learned about their “deadline” … the truth is I’d worry the crap out of it and not enjoy the time I had left.

    • Austin says:

      That sounds like a normal response. I know I’d freak if I knew exactly how much time was left on the clock. I’m not sure how I’m going to get to all the projects I set up for myself for today, let alone how I’d take care of everything for the rest of my life! 🙂

  13. elisapompili says:

    Love the pun at the end of your post.

    I agree with you – I would walk away, so as to keep my dreams open ended. I think we’ve all learned that if we knew the outcome of something, we would have completely changed our path toward that something. But the path is usually more fun and more memorable than the big moment.

    Great post, as always!

  14. Great article and I totally agree. I think the best part about life is the mystery, you never know what could happen and where you could end up in life. I’m still amazed how much l change in a month and can’t believe where my journey takes me. Great read and definitely will be coming back.

  15. ksbeth says:

    wouldn’t want to know at all, just try to live each day and enjoy life, i’ve lived a life with ups and downs and could die happy today, just would miss the people i care about, so i’d like to go on a bit longer if possible )

  16. drishism says:

    First of all, I would not want to know the day/hour/year of my death. I am one of those people who can open his birthday present a few days after his birthday if someone asks to be there then I open it. I am a curious person… but I also have the ability to wait. Walking away from this time machine would be easy for me.

    Second of all, on its best day, time travel accuracy is still sketchy at best. With the potential of ruptures in the space time continuum, who is to say that when I traveled into the future that I would not be seeing some “alternate” timeline. I once saw a documentary on time travel. The guy, Marty, traveled back in time and discovered the results of what could happen if his parents never had their first kiss.

    Third of all, I would need a TimeFax on this time machine. Has it had any major repairs? Has it had any modifications? What about flood damage? Etc, etc. A used time machine is still used, and without a TimeFax there is noway I am trusting that thing. It’s not something you can just pick-up one of these things Craigslist.

    • Austin says:

      I saw that same documentary about the guy Marty and that handsome, crazy doctor. I should really watch it again as it was quite informative… 🙂

  17. AnswerIt says:

    I would like to see the vultures circle after my death to find nothing.

  18. I’d go, just to find out where the place was and never go there again, unless I wanted to.

  19. I will admit I cheated on this quiz. I read a few comments before deciding on my answer. I think I would check the date and then use that info to live a better life going forward. Less wasted time in front of the boob tube and the computer and more time with people, both known and unknown.

  20. I am certain I would decline this invite. I prefer the mystery of tomorrow. Plus, I’ve come to learn these Friday time travels seldom go well for me, I’m actually getting slightly weary of time machines in general.

    Life is about the moment and I try to spend each day doing things I want or dream of doing because I don’t know how much time I have. I fear the knowledge of knowing might slow me down or put me in a rush depending… For me it’s best not to know, and live each day as if it’s all I have.

    Austin, don’t be anxious, frantic is a much better state to find ones self in… lol ; )

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