Sunday, November 14, 2010

Terminator: Time-lines

(For fans and buffs of the Terminator movies)

The Terminator story is only temporally linear from the first to the second films. These two are critical to the story/time-lines. However, both time paradoxes (predestination paradoxes) are finalized.

All following movies/books/stories/series are “splinters” or branches in probabilities (not considering the various video games). What becomes obvious is that in the vast majority of probabilities Judgment Day cannot be stopped, only delayed or advanced. (Judgment Day being the precursor to to a future war between man and machine, the probabilities following John Connor's various attempts to advert or avoid this future war).

However, what becomes extremely interesting to me is that in The Sarah Connor Chronicles this “future war” is actually being fought today, in the here and now! Skynet and John Connor having sent their soldiers and agents back in time to do battle – essentially starting a time-war rather than a war at a future historic date.

The only aspect of these time-lines that do not change are the first movie ("Terminator”), the second movie (”T2: Judgment Day”), and the never-seen final conflict between John Connor and Skynet (in 2029) in which all the various agents, soldiers, and Terminators are sent back.

If we were to map out these time-lines it might look like this:

The only real story left to be told is that of the final confrontation between John Connor and Skynet in 2029.

The real question – due to the various and numerous (potentially countless) time-lines becomes, must this future John Connor and Skynet send back agents for all probabilities?

This future John Connor and this future Skynet become more akin to some sort of mystical entities rather than individuals. It becomes a story that may very well be impossible to tell. Both these future figures become unknown (possibly even unknowable), mutable, non-fixed, and definitely historically non-static.

We know that this future John Connor is aware of the predestination paradox and deliberately sends Kyle Reese back in time to secure not only his birth, but his very existence.

Skynet does the exact same thing – securing its own genesis and existence. The only difference with Skynet is a question of awareness and intent. However, this becomes an insignificant question when we look at another. Must both the future John Connor and Skynet have taken action in regards to “failed” probabilities? Must these two Unknowable Future Entities have even been aware of the grandfather paradoxes?

What I mean by this is, in 2029 does Skynet send back a T-101 to 1984, a T-1000 to 1994, and a T-X (“Terminatrix”) to 2004, while – to combat these potential time “ripples” - John Connor sends back Kyle Reese to 1984, a reprogrammed T-101 to 1994, and Kathrine Brewster (John's wife) sends back another reprogrammed T-101 to 2004?

Ironically, the success of these “missions” or “operatives” would obliterate their future necessities... a grandfather paradox.

It is not my intention to point out a flaw in the storyline (even though I don't believe this is a flaw) but to attempt to draw some truth out of it.

In this analogy the Future John Connor and Skynet (both seemingly near omniscient) represent God and Satan; Good and Evil, engaged in a final war yet to come – The End Times. Certain quite literal interpretations of the book of Revelation, Final Judgment and Salvation and Damnation.

But what if, like The Sarah Connor Chronicles, this battle is not one off in the future – at the End Times – but right now, everyday, in the here and now?

Skynet is much more than a super-smart computer. It is much more than the leading-edge of AI technology. It is much more than the first self-aware AI. It is even much more than the first machine endowed with Free Will. Skynet is excising a sense of morality.

In order to exercise judgment against mankind, this action also necessitates awareness, intent, motive, and some sort of moral sense (granted a poor one – at least for us).

Skynet faced the temptation of the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil and Fell.

Similar to what Rob Bell suggests in Velvet Elvis in regards to Adam and Eve and the Fall. Namely, that there were not a historic or literal Adam or Eve and the story of the Fall is true only in metaphor; that this story, this temptation and struggle and Fall is an extremely personal one – one we each as free willed individuals faces daily.

Again, I am revisiting the abandonment of literal holy script interpretation.

Can we take the whole Terminator storyline as an analogy (regardless of its creator's intentions), as a sort of reflection of our collective cultural, or possibly artistic interpretation, views, thoughts, and fears of our times?

I've written an article some time back titled Cultural Mythology about this apparently inherent fear present in our culture. We see it repeatedly in movies and TV like Terminator, Star Trek's The Borg, and The Matrix. Could these monsters represent a manifestation of our collective unconscious fear of Modernism?

Could they be the zenith of Modernism?

But there is another less dark way of looking at this: In the original Star Trek series Dr. Spock represents the Modern Man – believing all can be controlled, understood, and dissected by logic, science, and reason.

While in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data represents the Postmodern Man – having achieved the pinnacle of scientific and technologic advancement yet longing not only to be human but to understand being human – realizing the limits and limitation of logic, reason, and science.

I have found much of the Modern Church and many Christians (most notably Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) function on this Spock-level.

We see this same Now-Future dichotomy in Islam. In the Golden Age of Islam, before the “Gates of Ijtihad” (Islam's third 'source' or root) were “shut”, the focus was to attempt to encourage and be receptive to new ideas – to live in harmony with other faiths and peoples. Although it wasn't perfect, the intention was there. Blind Faith was frowned upon and resolving an issue using analogical reasoning, thought, and dialog was promoted. The focus was on the Living Now and, to a certain degree, benefiting society.

Since the “closure” of this 'third root', many aspects and factions of Islam now reward and promote Blind Faith, a tribal and imperialistic idea of Islam. Would-be martyrs are promised 72 virgins in the afterlife. (Although certain scholars argue that the correct translation might not be “virgins” but “white dates”, a very valuable commodity in the 7th century desert. And it is unlikely the 72 white dates would be for the martyr but his surviving family).

This kind of mentality and these beliefs are the Skynet and Terminators of our time. They, ultimately, bring nothing less than destruction.

They become guilty of the same thing Skynet is guilty of; The belief that the end justifies the means. Its lack of understanding of the nature of truth; seeing the only valid and valuable truth as being only the literal, historic, factual, and ultimately, empirical.

Can there be truth in fiction?

This “battle”, this personal struggle is not one yet to come, like a war we are to prep and prepare ourselves for (similar to what St. Paul seems to advocate in his writings, saying that we are to race towards some goal, a future reward)...

...but rather, a perpetual internal struggle (with external manifestations), similar to the advise Yeshua gives when he says to “be on guard”, to live your life right here, right now! - like the End Times are already upon us; don't wait! Do it right here and now!

Maybe the truth of the matter isn't that Yeshua didn't know when this time would come (”Only the Father knows...”) but that he knew there really wasn't a time beyond the present, the perpetual Now; there was not End Times.

When we combine this with Yeshua's confusing description of The Kingdom of God – that it is not here or there, but it is here, right now, within you and within me...
... I've never believed Yeshua's Kingdom of God was synonymous with the Heaven of the Afterlife, the byproduct of Salvation, judgment and the End Times...
... in fact, I'm not convinced Yeshua ever promoted or taught of the Heaven of the Afterlife.


I'll attempt to bring this post to some sort of conclusion:
So, which do you engage in?

Collecting some sort of Divine Brownie Points for a judgment yet to come by a hidden Supernatural God ?

Or attempting to live Yeshua's Way right now – today - for a truly ever present God?

Which ”time-line” do you follow?


The Preacher's Kid said...

I definitely do not believe in divine brownie points.

When you say that the kingdom of God is with us right now, how would you apply that information practically to your daily life?

'Seph Sayers said...

You're not supposed to turn the question back on me!

(Good question though)
(... wish I had a good answer...)

Let me think 'bout that one...

The Preacher's Kid said...


I'm thinking of answers to that question, too. It's a puzzler.