Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The One that Got Away

There's certainty in the past. The future? Not so much.

I have a friend who's a retired Marine non-commissioned officer, and we got on the topic of the possibility of life on other planets. "Hell, yeah," he said. "And if we continue to do what we're doing to this planet, we better find a way to get there."

As Chevy Chase said in Caddyshack: See your future, be your future.

The tug and pull between the past and future is always there. What's happening to my country? What's happening to my job? What's happening to my family? These questions are couched in our knowledge of the past, our perceptions of the dynamics around us, and our expectations – as well as a trepidation – of the future. While the present is static and fleeting, those points of experience cause us to extrapolate and plot a trend. Depending on who and where we are, the world may be getting younger or older, richer or poorer, gentler or rougher, homogeneouser or heterogeneouser. (OK – you know what I mean.)

With age, we look for comfort and certainty. With disruption, we look for calm and reassurance. Competition offers none of these: it's noisy, unnerving, stressful, and chaotic. And it offers the economy the best chance to grow and its participants the best chance to share in growth. The Declaration of Independence is not a charter for "what have you done for me lately". However that's exactly what we seem to expect of our politicians. Instead, we should insist that they mutually pledge their lives, fortunes, and honor to the pursuit of a better future, not a certain past.

In a prayer, Francis of Assisi asked for "true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity"; that's too tall an order for any mortal. But instead of dwelling on the one that got away, we should insist that our politicians plot a course for the horizon while teaching us all to be better fishermen.