Better Than Knowing the Future Is Changing the Future

Better Than Knowing the Future Is Changing the Future


Noah benShea

There is a story told of an elderly couple sitting at the counter of a diner when the husband turns to his wife and says,

“Look at the couple at the other end of the counter. That’s how we’re going to look in 10 or 15 years.”

The wife laughs.

“What’s so funny?” asks the husband.

“That’s not another couple,” says his wife. “That’s a mirror.”

A lot of us give a lot of power to people who purport to know the future. And I find this strange not because it isn’t attractive, but because none of us see the world as it is but as we are, and in the end better than knowing the future is changing the future.

Any of us can know the future. You don’t have to pay a gypsy with a rose tattoo to tell you what will happen to you. All you have to do is keep doing what you’ve been doing. All you have to do is confuse your rut with a dance floor. Scientists remind us that any rat in a cage is considered nuts if it does the same thing over and over and expects a different result.

If you don’t like what’s going on in your life and continue to conduct yourself in the same way, you will know the future. Just don’t expect to get a piece of cheese instead of getting zapped in the same way, over and over again.

I don’t think this is an intelligence issue; we can after all be smart and nuts and the headlines are filled with sad testimony to this. The controlling issue tends to be an addiction to habit over health – choosing the negative but familiar over the healthy but new. And this is also, as it turns out, a good definition of neurotic behavior.

So if neurosis is often a vehicle that can take us to knowing a depressing future and calling it a vision, then a lot of us, too many of us too often, are visionary to everything but our blindness.

On the other hand, if we want to change the future, then the best way to accomplish this is to alter how we have conducted ourselves in the past. And if we want to change the world sometimes we simply have to change our point of view. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing more, working harder, or being busier – all the traditional excuses we give ourselves for procrastinating change. In fact change can and often means doing less, refusing to do something, or just putting the brakes on ourselves.

By saving more and spending less, we can influence our future’s fortune. By burning less fossil fuel, we can influence our planet’s future. By consuming less we are inclined to shrink in all the right places. When we’re in a hurry, sometimes nothing hurries us to our destination like going slowly.

Many of us pray to God so that events will turn in our behalf. And we often believe – even claim to have faith – that God can make this happen. Curiously, I tend to believe that God also has faith that we can do the same. Indeed, I am quite convinced that God gave us free will in the hope we will make happen what we take to be Divine intervention by intervening in our own lives and influencing how our own life will turn out. God tends to more often do God’s part when we do ours. We can’t ask God to do what we won’t do.

Any time we make a move to conduct ourselves differently instead of standing on the sidelines and presuming the more of the same, we are making a move on the future. Any biophysicist can tell you, as soon as you change the smallest aspect of the present all bets for the future are off. Like a game of Pick-Up-Sticks, when you move one piece in the pile even in the slightest you change the pile, but you’ve got to run the risk of making a move to stay in the game. This doesn’t mean that life is a game or that how we played the game in the past will take us to the future we have in mind.

For a number of years my mother would call me and let me know what my horoscope advised for the day ahead. I loved that she cared. And on some days it influenced my mind-set. But at the end of the day what mattered is what I did that day. Any of us who sit around waiting for the future to happen will more often find we are history.

To make our life a work of art is to know we are work in process and honor that process by working on our and who we might become instead of calling ourselves visionary for becoming who we were. If you want a window on your future make sure it’s more than a mirror on your past.

“God made the world round so we can’t see too far down the road.”
– Isak Dinsen

Copyright © Noah benShea 2010,