Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thinking Forward and Backward

I've written before about a certain thought experiment that I was pleased to encounter the other day in a different context.

The premise I had previously raised is that often in life we lament that we wish we knew many years ago some of the truths we later learned. For example - maybe we wish we did more physical activity when we were younger, didn't waste time in dead-end relationships, spent less time drinking in college, didn't kill so many hours watching that soap opera, and so on. The new insight I had was that some of these lousy choices were probably fairly obvious to us at the time, but we just lived day-to-day and never sat back and took a long view at our life. So we can help to avoid this phenomenon today and in the future by occasionally taking some time to pretend we are 20 years older and looking back at our current activities. Then we can resolve to make the improvements now that our future voice will wish that we had made. (I find that vacations are great times for this type of thought activity.)

The interesting encounter I had the other day was reading a blog called Don To Earth. It is an impressive blog, considering that the author is 94 years old. The post was called "It Bothers Me That I Have To Go", and was brief and poignant. I was struck by the passage that read "I don't want my successors to find out how much I could have done that isn't done, not by a long shot. There are numerous notes and letters I must write. There are places I've wanted to travel, but never had the chance. Actually, each of you can, if you think yourself into my age, fill out the list." I kept coming back to the phrase "think yourself into my age". This seems to be precisely the concept I had been thinking about. But hearing someone say it, especially at that age, helped it resonate even more for me.


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