Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Crystal ball gazing.


Everyone agrees that seeing the future is speculative at best but we lull ourselves with the fruit of the exercise anyway. Economists, politicians, poets and regular people all play the game of crystal ball gazing and many fall prey to actually believing their wishful projections. Once we have persuaded our self of a perspective it is inordinately hard to undo our vested positions. Then the whole world needs to reinforce positions taken.

Do you want to know why this doesn’t work very well? It’s for two reasons: (1) lack of internal research and (2) the lack of being aware of unintended consequences. Let’s look at these two in tandem.

Internal research: For this we need to equip ourselves with a rear-view mirror and take a hard look at where we’ve been. It isn’t hard but it does require losing the blinders and look dispassionately at the choices we’ve made and the ensuing benefits and consequences. There’s a path back there that is unavoidably clear if we can let go of justifying our past actions and playing the tired canard game of blame. When all of those fabrications are thrown aside, and we can stop the desire to be right at all cost, we can learn something of value about how to avoid repeating the same mistakes that created havoc. If we can’t do that then we’ll keep on doing the same thing and get the same dissatisfying outcome (our futures).

There’s a reason why we can’t see our future. The reason is because we haven’t yet made choices. When we make choices the outcome follows suit. Make different choices and we get a different outcomes. Sometimes we seem to be slow learners. Cause and effect are peerless. Push this button, you get this result. Why is that so hard to fathom? Apparently it is because collectively we seem doomed to repeated patterns of egotistical stupidity, unable to see that common choices lead to common outcomes. If we want a better future it will only happen when we make better choices now.

Unintended consequences: In spite of our best internal research and dispassionate assessment, life is complicated and stuff happens beyond our control. Not only do we make choices that affect others, so likewise do others make choices that affect us. We are in process and will know better tomorrow, things we can only learn by making mistakes today. That’s the way everyone learns. Nobody gets a rain check to put off today what life brings our way from choices we have already made. Come back tomorrow and the opportunities for learning yesterday’s lessons have passed us by.

If we miss that boat, stuff happens anyway. Now consequences of non-action sweep over us. This idea of not choosing, is a death trap. A choice to not choose is still a choice. There is no such thing as sitting on the sidelines, uninvolved while we wait for the world to emerge. We are the world and the world answers our beckon call. People may say, “I’m praying. That’s enough.” No it isn’t enough. The unenfleshed manifestations of thought or divine infusion, left in the brain cells means nothing. Thought and prayer, as good as they may be, are just water priming the pump. Good thoughts or good prayers are worthless unless we do something. Praying while the world burns around us is an excuse that results in a disintegrating life and a disintegrating world. If we don’t act each moment of today there are new challenges to deal with the next moment. In each and every passing moment, we have an amazing opportunity to create. The challenge is that the ingredients we have to work with are always new and fresh. The recipes of the past no longer apply because the ingredients keep changing.

We do make errors and consequences flow from them. We don’t have the luxury of do-overs. All that we can do is forgive ourselves and others, learn from what we did wrong (if anything) and make better choices. That’s enough.

Crystal ball gazing is either a productive or a destructive endeavor. If we are wise we’ll learn from our mistakes (everyone makes them). If we don’t learn we’ll have new opportunities, and the ones that emerge will be precisely the ones we ourselves have created either by choosing wisely for the benefit of all or ones we choose for selfish reasons. The latter will come back to bite us in the future that we ourselves have created.
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