"The future seems perfectly capable of taking care of itself."

I woke up this morning with the genuine sense that I was suddenly inhabiting the future. The New Year arrived overnight and as usual, I couldn't quite keep my eyes open long enough to witness the fateful transition, so I faced this future in the early morning, all by myself, while the rest of the household slept. I remembered pondering this very future back when I attended elementary school, employing my newly gained arithmetic skills to calculate how old I'd be when, and the year twenty twenty always crept into my pondering. I figured that the future would very likely be much different from what my then present had been. I would be a fully-grown man by then, old, even, by my rough approximation, maybe even dead. I considered those I knew who were as old as I would be then and strained to imagine myself as how I might turn out. I never once suspected that I might still be striving and still not quite settled on who I would be when I finally grew up in the year twenty twenty, but here I am.

Almost every prediction I remember making then turned out quite differently than I'd projected.
Anyone might reasonably ascribe my lousy Predicting to my lack of experience with life itself, for though I felt quite advanced for my age, my life experience at the time amounted to little more immersion than that which would leave me with a little moisture lingering behind my ears, but still largely dry. Adequate life experience would leave me crying over my deeply felt erosion of innocence. I even now seem to value my innocence more highly than I weigh my experience. The purpose of life might just be to retain as much innocence as possible while trudging through hurricanes of experience. No amount of life experience ever improved my skill at Predicting, though, which might reasonably lead me to believe that Predicting doesn't actually qualify as a skill.

My great shortcoming as a project manager always emerged when faced with the requirement that I predict the future. No amount of concerted contemplation ever once brought adequate perspective on this so-called problem. I simply could not imagine it. Unlike the artist who created the illustration accompanying this posting, I lacked the vision to imagine a teacher grinding up books to produce knowledge transfer via wires and headphones. Of course, all such Predicting eventually proves itself absurd, since from the beginning of recorded history, no future ever unfolded as predicted. Previously unconsidered aspects take surprisingly prominent position, and the future changes. Whomever anyone aspired to become eventually turned moot under the scrutiny of revealing history. It ultimately always turns out different that that.

We rather smugly believe that our destinies seem inexorably tied to our ability to predict what's next. I suspect that we're more likely adaptors than predictors, fully capable of almost seamlessly shifting to whatever unfolds before us. I've become much less of a true believer in any future, willing to wait and watch whatever it might be appear before me. I dig in my heels even when (perhaps especially when) I'm almost certain that I'm dealing with another inevitability. I drag my feet whenever moving forward. I see much room for improvement, but much less leverage for achieving improvement than advancement seems to require. The many modern marvels surrounding me today were clearly impossibilities just a few short years ago, and my begrudging belief that I might actually employ the least of them lagged every introduction. I might have been the last person to accept that I might find some productive use from a smart phone. I could not for the longest time foresee any personal value one might bring to me. Now, of course, I've forgotten how to get along without one.

When facing a dire need to predict, I usually fall back on the old Projecting Forward tactic. Life, I presume, will very likely continue almost unchanged. Radical change might appear as the result of some SmallThings accumulating over time or from SmallThings more or less accidentally hitting some sociological Powerball® number, but even the more radical new will most probably creep in through a carelessly left unlocked bathroom window rather than bulldoze through any front door. Change still moves at about the speed of a walking horse, though much of the early western migration occurred at precisely that speed. I always underestimate the inherently radical nature of change, it's exponential expression which might utterly transform without ever once resorting to any action faster or more far-reaching than that of a walking horse.

I survey the future I inhabit this morning and find myself amazed at both how strangely different it is and how very much unchanged it remains. The Muse insists that I've developed skills over time, though these do not pleasingly clank from some discernible tool belt. They seem rather independent of me, like the future so suddenly surrounding me. I feel in it without quite believing that I'm of it. It seems to swirl around me, increasingly not for or very much about me. The once so promising future seems to have been outgrowing me and my well-rooted and formerly so very well-suited self. Much of what's emerged seems solely suitable for somebody else. I hover within my unique corner of history watching the future recede with greater speed than it used to seem attracted toward me. I continue to have little notion of what might or even what should reasonably come next. I remain lousy at Predicting and also increasingly less concerned about it. The future seems perfectly capable of taking care of itself. On reflection, it has always seemed capable of at least that.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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