“You have to remember, it didn’t all happen at once. It’s not as if three billion people all got a glimpse of the future at the same time. It was gradual, over a period of many years. Decades. At first no-one understood what was happening. Sometimes whole cities travelled, other times only a few people at a time.
“I was six years old when I first saw Him. I was walking past a café with my mother and we saw everyone inside staring at the TV. The news report was playing the same blurred footage you have no doubt all seen a million times. Footage of what looked – to me at least – like a man with bright skin hovering over a field of wheat. The military circling him, the reporter clearly scared for his life. Then it cut to static. And that was it, we were all left hanging, just like that.
“It was only a few days later that reports started to emerge of people spontaneously fainting. Regaining consciousness seconds later with what we came to understand was knowledge of the future. Most were profoundly transformed by the experience. We called it ‘travelling’. People’s eyes would go white when it happened. Some fainted or had nose bleeds; a few had full-blown seizures.
“As the years passed we learned more about travelling. It turned out that it only happened once in your life, and only to the people already born on the day of His appearance. You never knew when or where it would happen, only that somehow it never seemed to put you or others in danger when it did. To me, that was a sign that an extraordinary intelligence was pulling the strings with some unknown higher purpose; a glimmer of hope for our collective future. The premonitions were always fragments, never fully formed pictures; sometimes they contradicted one another. We were baffled. We wanted to know what it all meant.
“Well. We stand here today knowing how things turned out. It was like lighting a fuse to a world just about ready to explode. You would think that two world wars and global chaos throughout the twenty first century would have been enough to teach us the meaning of ‘common good’ but no; as a species, we seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.
“Which brings me to what I wanted to say to you today. When I was invited by Professor Walters to give your commencement speech, I was flattered but did not know what I had left in me to say. As you know, I’ve lived the last few years away from the public spotlight. And you can easily see why: a few minutes ago you saw me struggling just to get on stage. [laughter] Old age will do that to you. But then I thought of my late wife and children… And what I wanted to say became very clear.
“I stand before you as one of the last surviving travellers. Almost all of us have died, all three billion of us. Nearly one hundred years have passed since that very first day at the café. I’m here today to tell you that my generation failed, and it is a deeply humbling experience. Old men usually complain about the young. I’m here to do one thing: ask for your forgiveness. We were given a chance that no generation has ever had – and we managed to squander it.
“I am here to tell you that you have the ability to change the course of things. To change us for the better. To save us. It is not too late; it will never be too late.
“Throughout my life I’ve been asked many times what I saw when I travelled. I’ve always refused to answer that question and that will not change today. Let me explain why.
“I’ve dedicated my life to quantum physics, and I can tell you that sometimes all it takes is the observation of a given reality to change it. Paradoxically, awareness of your own future is enough to cause it to happen in the first place. And frankly, as I stand at the twilight of my own life, I wonder how much happier my life would have been if I had not been so obsessed with finding the answers. I lost my wife to cancer ten years ago; not one day goes by that I don’t regret the time I spent away from her.
“So live your lives in the bliss of not knowing everything, in the gift of the unknown. In the wonder of what Shakespeare once called the ‘Undiscovered Country’.
“May the Emissary – wherever He is – watch over your fates, and the fates of all those you love. And, above all, may you all watch over one another.