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Peter T. Chattaway
The What-If Game
Most people play the what-if game at some point or other. Many of us look back on a specific moment when we made a decision that had ramifications far beyond our own lives, and we wonder if we did the right thing. For example, what if I had not skipped grades when I was 12 years old? I came to regret that decision frequently during my high school years, and if I could revisit any moment in my past, that would probably be it.
But I was not the only person affected by my choice. Had I not skipped grades, I would probably not have gone to Bible school, and I would not have become friends with a couple of fellows who ended up moving to Vancouver and becoming my first roommates. Two of my roommates went on to marry women who lived in the suite below our own, and one of these couples already has children. There are times when I wonder if those kids will ever know that they owe their existence, in part, to the fact that I said "yes" and not "no" when I was offered a chance to accelerate my education.
If my actions affect the lives of others in ways that cannot be foreseen, then the decisions of others have affected my life, too. And all of our decisions are made in the context of seemingly random events, which provide yet another opportunity to play the what-if game.
Several films have been playing that game lately. Last year, in Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow played a woman named Helen whose life goes in two separate directions following a fateful run through a train station. In one timeline, Helen catches the train and arrives home in time to discover that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. In the other, Helen misses the train, and in the extra time it takes her to get home, her boyfriend's lover leaves the apartment undetected. Through a combination of chance and choice, the Helen who discovers her boyfriend's infidelity meets a fate very different from that of the Helen who doesn't.
Run Lola Run, an energetic German film released in North America several months later, ...