In the movie Back to the Future,a pivotal moment surrounds Marty McFly’s ability to cement his parents’ romance—in the past. His entire existence, his future, hinges on this.
See, George McFly and Lorraine Baine had originally fallen in love at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance on November 12, 1955. This is where they had their first kiss, and their subsequent romance led to the eventual birth of Marty some years later. Unfortunately, Marty’s journey to the past (via one Dr. Emmett Brown, a flux capacitor, and a suped up DeLorean) jeopardized this pivotal moment, threatening his own existence and that of his two siblings.
In a few desperate seconds, as Marty begins fading from existence, George and Lorraine have their kiss after all, barely evading an entirely new Marty-less future.
It struck me, a couple of years ago, that life is the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance. Every moment is a fork. Every moment contains multiple futures.
It’s an unnerving thought, when you really think about it, that every moment is so full of potential as to contain multiple paths. Nevertheless, this is how life goes—moments continuously unfolding after moments, contingent upon actions and decisions both subtle and defining. It’s a lot of pressure, to go through life constantly grasping at a future that can only be grasped in coincidence, chance, and luck. It’s even more concerning when we realize that most decisions are made without any awareness of this, because to be aware of the ‘right’ decision would be to forecast the future. Unfortunately, our minds are not capable of generating the 1.21 gigawatts required to travel through time. We simply don’t know what will be, nor can we ever be certain of the steps that will take us there.
But this movie offers us one additional possibility—it may not matter. In the end, George and Lorraine fell in love even when the sequence of events was turned on its head, for it took only a kiss, regardless of all other actions, decisions, and seemingly time-bending events that unfolded that night. Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps some moments are meant to happen, while others are left to chance.
Life is the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance, for life is full of moments, and all moments are full of potentials. But potentials are funny things, for they must inevitably coalesce, on our watch or someone else’s. There’s no way of knowing for certain how these things work. But if Marty taught us anything, it’s that some moments really matter. Some moments grab hold of us. Some moments mean everything.
So put on your best suit or dress, pick yourself up, and walk into your ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance with a smile, some guts, and a little wisdom. But whatever you do, be present (“be there, or be square,” as the high school poster suggested). Whatever you do, don’t miss your moment.
(This post was originally published on my blog David Bothered on August 8th, 2012.)