#Trust30 Prompt: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.” I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.
Kay is not the first to want to invent the future. As an historian I have to tell you I am relieved that many of those who aggressively wanted to invent the future didn’t get their way. Others had noble dreams of the future and became disillusioned–and didn’t get their way either. Do I have to be so powerful that I think I can get my way about the future? Do I have to be so potent for my life to be considered meaningful? Is this delusion about inventing the future a mere hyperbole that manipulates artist types into a rah-rah experience?
I don’t feel bad about thinking it is ridiculous to get excited about inventing the future. I am not knocking Alan Kay here because I don’t know the context of what he was trying to say when he wrote this memorable aphorism. Out of context prima facie it has a certain ring of truth, but no, I think I must reject it. Plenty of us were told we could do anything we put our mind to by well-meaning parents. I fear in many cases that this was a cheap substitute for what a child desperately needs: Presence. By being present with, spending time with, looking carefully at, their children parents have the opportunity to identify individual passions and the privilege of being the most significant nurturers of the Call. This privilege is as much the crucible of parents to grow up as it is their kids, because the flip side of remaining in presence with our children is realizing they have minds of their own and could choose to ignore their gifts. Growth for parents is learning not to harangue, but to view their children’s lives as longue durée, enjoying the process of unearthing fervor and self-discovery.
So I really cannot do anything I might put my mind to. The future is not my oyster. But that does not mean I cannot discover, explore, and pursue my passions in what those wise old theologians called “subduing the earth,” which amounted to doing what I was put here to do and loving it, thereby demonstrating mine is an indispensible story within the greater Story–yes, pomo friends, I am saying there is a grand narrative. This thought moves me far more than the idea that all this joy and crap we go through is mere accident. No accidents means a big, heaping helping of wonder and awe. It means I am part of something bigger than myself. For my money, this is way better than believing I can invent the future. No, thanks.
Besides, inventing the future was not what Emerson was talking about at all. He was talking about the issue of dismissing the power of my thoughts because they are mine. He is alluding to the awful internal editor that refuses to believe that I can see well. The fulgurations of my mind is part of the wonder of living in the Story I find myself in.
So Emerson offers the greater advice to trust that as the voice that is in concert with who I was created to be. Dismissing what I see is a handmaiden of denial. If dismissing the gleam becomes my habit I will not only deprive the world of what only I can offer, I will diminish my humanness.