Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

If You Could Go Back in Time: Would you Share the Knowledge of the Future?

If you went back in time, would you share the knowledge of the future to the people of the era or time you are in? It is certainly a great question for discussion in many circles, helping professions included.

I am reading Diana Gabaldon’s novels; Outlander is behind me and I am in the midst of Dragonfly in Amber. The main character, Claire was born in 1919 in England and in 1946 is with her husband in the Highlands of Scotland on vacation. Frank, the husband is an historian and one of his interests is the Jacobites. Price Charles Edward Stuart, the grandson of King James VII of Scotland and II of England (overthrown because of his Roman Catholicism),  believed – along with his Jacobite followers – that the British throne was his birthright as an heir to King James. King George II (Protestant) was currently ruling England and Scotland.

Claire, on one of her walks, enters the small circle of stones on Craigh na Dun which could best be described as a much smaller version of Stonehenge. There is a stone split with a gap between. She touches one of these stones and is brought back in time to 1743. As an English lady she is suspected of being a spy, by both the red coats (British Army) and the Scottish Highlanders, but in due course marries a Scot. She cannot be tried as English by the captain of the British Army as she now is considered Scottish. Coincidentally, the captain of the British Army is a distant direct relation (6 or 7 times great-grandfather) to her husband Frank in the time of the 20th century.

A lot happens regarding themes, plot, with focus on the main as well as secondary characters, but the bottom line is Claire uses the knowledge of the 20th century to make some changes in the 18th century. This knowledge is her nursing background, professional and personal experiences, and history. She tries to implement more hygienic methods for treating patients, sterilized dressings for wounds, the habit of washing one’s hands to reduce germs and the risk of infection. Because of her husband Frank and history books, she knows there was a Jacobite uprising in 1745-46 where thousands of Scottish clan members were slaughtered and a great famine occurred. She encourages her sister-in-law to plant potatoes as a new crop to assist with the future famine. This uprising and famine affects her husband and his clan in the 18th century. At the same time the captain of the red coats, Randall, must marry and father a son or her husband in the 20th century does not exist.

First, I hope my brief summary makes you interested enough to read the novels, but secondly to think of my original question which is the title of this post. If any of us were to go back in time would we share the knowledge of the future and would we try to change history? Would we be believed? What would be the benefits? What would be the repercussions of doing so? Would our reasons be selfish? Would doing so erase a part of history that had a huge impact or influence on modern times?

Now remember Claire goes back in time with nothing but the clothes on her back and knowledge and personal experience in her head. There are no objects in her possession. She is believed about being from the 20th century because her husband of the 18th century brings her back to the ring of rocks and she demonstrates what happened. She chooses to stay in the 18th century as her connection to the husband of that time is stronger, the relationship more loving and she knows she leaves the comforts of the 1900’s behind, but still in the back of her mind, she thinks of the husband in the 20th century. If she ever goes back to the 20th century, what is she going back to? Will he exist?

I believe that most individuals wonder at some point in their own life, “If I could do my life over or make a change to the one I have, would I and what would be the effect?” Maybe it depends on if the change is small or big. Does it effect only our life or the lives of many? One has to look at the positives and negatives of doing so. An example of a big change; changing the course of history- no wars=no loss of life. Equality, justice, employment, education, finances, health-none an issue or concern, and within one’s grasp no matter the gender, culture, religion or ethnicity or would the world population be much greater and all the issues even more problematic?

Hmmm… This is much more complicated, the ramifications of doing so seem almost beyond our scope when compared to making a change in one’s personal life; choosing a different university degree, ending an abusive relationship or not entering one, making a different job or career choice, marrying someone different, traveling or not traveling, etc, although the effect could still be monumental. What are you thoughts?

By Victoria Brewster, MSW


1 thought on “If You Could Go Back in Time: Would you Share the Knowledge of the Future?”

  1. Good thought provoking commentary.

    I’ve wondered about what I’d do differently, but I wonder too if changing any small thing might by consequence change other things I’d like to remain the same!
    Thanks Vicki

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