Monday, 4 August 2014

Causal Loops And Religious Signs

Manson Everard is in ancient Tyre which the Exaltationists have threatened to destroy although they have not said when. He seeks evidence of their presence so that he can apprehend them. If the destruction, "'...a barrage throughout the city...'" (Time Patrol, p. 256) were to start while he was there, and if he survived it, then he would have to double back in time and try to prevent it although such a situation is to be avoided if at all possible. In fact, there is no barrage because Everard and his colleagues have already apprehended the Exaltationists a generation earlier but he and we do not know that yet.

"Everard had a few minutes alone. He spent them reflecting upon his sense of urgency. Theoretically, he had as much time as he wanted; if need be, he could always double back, providing he took care to prevent people seeing him next to himself. In practice, that entailed risks acceptable only in the worst emergencies. Besides the chance of starting a causal loop that might expand out of control, there was the possibility of something going wrong in the mundane course of events. The likelihood of that would increase as the operation grew more long-drawn and complex. Then too, he had a natural impatience to get on with his job, complete it, nail down the existence of the world that begot him." (p. 296)

Maybe, if there are future generations whose entire lives are spent time traveling, then they will lose any sense of impatience? If Everard lives twice or even three times through the same limited period, then the likelihood of something mundane going wrong during that period will not increase with each of the times that he lives through it.

Why should "...a causal loop...expand out of control..."? If "a causal loop" means a causal circle, then each event in the circle occurs only once and there comes a time when the circle has been completed. Maybe Everard means instead a causality violation that rapidly changes the course of events and that occurs in circumstances so complicated that any attempt to rectify it merely diverts events even further away from the preferred course? He sometimes uses the phrase "causal (or temporal) vortex," although this is insufficiently explained.

When Everard asks a palace servant to seek out evidence of strangers who might be Exaltationists:

"She touched brow, lips, bosom, the sign of obedience." (p. 297)

I remember that sign in Catholic ritual. Here is another:

"...Harpagus drew the sign of the cross, which was a Mithraic sun-symbol." (p. 77)

Ancient Tyre and Persia do not seem very far away.

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