In 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 a single moment in time.
Marty’s parents, George McFly and Lorraine Baine, fell in love at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance on November 12, 1955. This is when 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 in time, threatening his own existence as well as that of his two siblings.
In a matter of a few desperate seconds, as Marty begins fading from existence, George and Lorraine have their kiss after all, just barely evading a new Marty-less future.
It struck me, some years ago, that life is the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance. Every moment is a fork. Every moment contains multiple paths, multiple futures.
It’s an unnerving thought, when you think about it, that every moment is so full of potential as to contain multiple paths. But this is how life goes—moments unfolding after moments, contingent upon actions and decisions both subtle and life-defining. It’s a lot of pressure, to go through life always grasping at a future that can only be reached in coincidence, chance, or mere luck. It’s even more concerning when you realize that most decisions are made without any awareness of this at all, 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 cannot know what will be, nor can we be certain of the steps needed to take us there.
But Back to the Future offers us one other possibility: that 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 time-bending circumstances that unfolded that night. Perhaps it was fate, after all. Perhaps some moments are meant to happen, while others are better 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 will always coalesce, on our watch or someone else’s. There’s no way of knowing for certain how things will pan out. But if Marty taught us anything, it’s that some moments matter more than others. Some moments grab hold of us. And some moments mean everything.
So, put on your best dress, pick yourself up, and walk into your ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’ Dance with a smile, some guts, and a little wisdom. Whatever you do, be present (“be there, or be square,” as the high school poster read). Don’t miss your moment.
(This post was originally published on my blog David Bothered on August 8th, 2012.)