July 01, 2007
What of Tomorrow?
Being a parent is good in many ways, but one way in particular is how the act of closely observing a developing child reveals insights into one's own psyche — and, for that matter, into the human condition as a whole.
What got me thinking about this today is a recent change in how our boy deals with the concept of time. Until now, the words "yesterday" and "tomorrow" had roughly about the same meaning to him, which is to say, very little. He, like all little ones, is a "now" kinda guy. But this morning, he mentioned a couple of things that happened "yesterday," and he used the word in a way that demonstrated a more concrete understanding of their temporal placement.
I can't say that he's arrived at the same place regarding "tomorrow," however. That will come later. And this is my point. All of us, whether we're two or ninety-two, tend to place much more trust in the past than we do in the future, regardless of the fact that the future (via the present) is the only one of those two that can be affected.
Sure, we have memory on our sides when dealing with former events. There is a comfort (false as it may indeed be) embedded in nostalgic recollection. However, memory can be subtly deceptive. The 1950's, for example, were not necessarily the golden age that so many attempt to recall a half-century later. People tend to (and I know I do) treat the years that they spent in adolescence as the standard by which all other times are measured.
Time gets twisted in other ways, too. For example, part of my brain remains convinced that more time elapsed between 1972 (when I really started remembering events) and 1981 (when I became a teenager) than the time from 1986 (when I graduated from high school) until now. That's 9 years vs. 21, and I somehow sense that the nine represented a much longer era. Weird.
But even stranger, and definitely more troublesome, is the way so many of us fail to plan for the future. I'm a notorious procrastinator, so "tomorrow" has always meant "when I'll start something" to me. There's more than that, though, and I'm not just talking about painting the house or paying off loans or building that retirement account. I'm referring to the act of using tomorrow, and all the days afterward, as the construction arena for myself as a person, and not relying on the past, which is irrevocable, as too much of that structure. Yes, it is the foundation, as is ancestry; but the ideal is to look much more to the possibilities inherent in the fluid nature of what has not yet come, and trust that each step into the unknown is usually the right one.
Otherwise, one is merely standing still and looking backward. While it's natural to do that, and even interesting that that concept comes first in our emerging consciousness (that's where we started, remember?), it's likely more productive to move beyond that as soon as we can. I hope I can set an example.
Sunday Drive | By joe lance | 09:32 AM