The modern mind longs for the future as the medieval mind longed for heaven. The great aim of modern life has been to improve the future, or even just to reach the future, assuming that the future will inevitably be “better.” -Wendell Berry
I was reading a book on culture and agriculture, and the above quote jumped out at me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
We put a lot of thought into the future. We plan out the years ahead, with deliberation and care. We want to ensure that our children are able to prosper and thrive and enjoy life, like people did in the Good Old Days.
We stand on our tiptoes, trying to peer off into the unknown future; we wear out our necks, gazing back into the past. We want to learn from history, so we can positively experience the future.
We work day and night, so that “someday” we don’t have to.
We try to cushion our bank accounts well, so that “someday” we can bless others with our giving. Someday we will live the life we want. Someday we will visit our friends that live in far off lands. Someday we will take time to visit the widow, the elderly, the sick, the mourning. Someday, in the future.
Someday we will sit back, in this Future we have worked so hard for, and watch our Grandchildren grow up. Ah, it will be just like the Good Old Days! We will take them fishing, play ball with them on the immaculate lawn of our retirement home, teach them old fashioned life skills, (the ones our parents learned in the Good Old Days,) and tell them stories of the long, hard road we travelled to get there, from the past, to the Future.
But what about the here and now? What about the gift God gave us, so aptly named The Present…?
Our children are growing up NOW. They are looking at their parents, and their ideas about how grownups operate, are being formed, NOW. Are they learning to live in the moment and appreciate the everyday, or are they learning to work, work, work, and aspire toward this unknown, un-promised thing, called the future.
Someday, the elderly of today will be no more. Will they live out their years surrounded with love and pleasant company? Or will they pass their final days alone, forsaken as we hurry on towards the future? Will they be given time to pass along their stories, or will we allow the stories to be buried with them when they’re gone?
If we make it to Grandparenthood, will our children look on our fishing trips and front lawn ball games with sadness, wondering why they never experienced this side of us? Will they wonder why they never got to hear these stories from the good old days?
I don’t think it’s wrong to learn from the past. I don’t think its wrong to look ahead to the future. But I want to be cautious. I don’t want to be so focused on the future that I cheat my children out of the Present. I want to love them, to support them, to be there for them and have them KNOW I’m here for them right now when they need me.
The past is gone. We cant get it back. The future isn’t promised us. But we are given the Present. Let’s not rush by and leave it wrapped.
As a friend posted on WhatsApp recently:
“One day you will look back on your life and realize you’ve always been looking back on your life. Make today the Good Old Days.”
I couldn’t have said it better.