Many years ago, sometime in the early 1980s, I think, I was enamored of a film called Overdrawn at the Memory Bank,which starred Raúl Julia in the character of Aram Fingal, a programmer for NoviCorp, a global corporation that shared control of the dystopian society that had taken control of the world. Fingal, who had broken the corporate rules by watching a film (Casa Blanca; the arts had been banned), was punished and rehabilitated by having his mind transferred (“doppeled”) to an aging ape for a time. The plot line is long and somewhat convoluted (and I don’t recall it entirely), but this one element of the film, doppeling, intrigued me.
The process of having one’s mind transferred to a wild creature was, for those who could afford it, the “in” vacation of the time, with the cost being quite high for vacations as a lion, a tiger, and other in-demand beasts. In this mind-numbing future in which every facet of one’s life was controlled by quasi-governmental corporate policy, the opportunity to escape into something utterly foreign and frightening but (except for plot twists in the film), very safe was impossibly attractive.
At any rate, this morning, as my mind wandered aimlessly through many careers I had once considered but abandoned, either for lack of resources or an overabundance of fear or sloth, the concept of “doppeling” came back to me. I thought how interesting it would be were it possible to reconfigure one’s experiential memory to fit “the road not taken” so we could get a glimpse of how different we might be if we had taken a different path than the one we chose, or that was chosen for us.
For example, in keeping with this morning’s aimless wanderings, what would my life be like had I:
- Accepted the offer, while I was working as an intern at what was then called the Texas Department of Corrections, to go to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an agricultural inspector;
- Stuck with my middle-school dream of becoming a doctor;
- Pursued my early high-school dream of becoming a veterinarian;
- Chased after my early college dreams of a career as a linguist;
- Stayed with my interest in a career as professor of sociology;
- Finished my post-graduate work in criminology and corrections;
- Followed my desire to become an attorney (which I have harbored, off and on, for most of my life);
- Accepted an opportunity (which was never fully presented to me until after I had chosen another direction) to get involved in business development for an insurance brokerage;
- Endured the affront presented in a proposed CEO contract with an engineering association in Morgantown, West Virginia;
- Leapt from association management into entrepreneurial pursuits fifteen years ago;
- Followed my desire, which still remains, to “sell it all” and bought a place to live on the land when I wanted to; or
- Listened to my twenty-two-year-old self and hit the road?
There is, of course, no way to know what might have been. Many, if not most, of the bounties of my life today would not be as they are had I chosen other paths. It’s not that I am not grateful for what I have, I simply wonder what would have been different…how would my world-view compare to how it is today?
If there were this magical ability to experience how our lives would be different had we made different choices, I would jump at the chance to use it. In fact, there is such a magical ability; the imagination. I may well use that ability to document my life as it would have unfolded had I made other choices.
Look for it at bookstores or in the patient folders of psychiatrists near you!