Past, present resources help with future choices
Everywhere I look in my home and yard, I see signs of things of interest, things waiting to be done and stacks of options for the future. There are boxes of high-tech gadgets I haven’t totally utilized because I don’t know how to run them nor, in most cases even, what their total potential might be. There are phone numbers I might need for follow-up information written on small pieces of papers or at the bottom of a long report. Pamphlets from visits to museums, farmers markets and political causes are stacked for future reference. The old newspaper articles I am sure will be good references for future speeches or columns sit in a mound by my computer.
I never rid myself of old business files as I am never sure what needs to be kept by law or personal responsibility. Behind my desk and in the bottom of my purse are ideas for television programs, vacation options and newspaper columns. Oh, yes; don’t forget the passwords that accumulate when one has a number of different people helping navigate the internet world.
Perhaps you too have your personal version of the resources waiting to be needed.
I am 84 officially now and, if I go by the actuarial tables available, I don’t have dozens of years to use all the material I have accumulated in anticipation of future use. Maybe I should just ‘downsize’ as my wiser friends admonish me to do. When do we just relish the moment at hand and when do we dream and plan for the future? That seems to me the personal question for all of us and at any age.
In church recently, Dr. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, challenged us to bravely remember the stories of our ancestry. She warned us that, if we fail to acknowledge the stories that formed who we are today, we repeat instituted prejudices and assumptions. If we fail to acknowledge unpleasant and unethical practices of the past, we keep repeating them as though they do not exist.
It is in the gathering of stories, artifacts and information and then applying them to today that we get a realistic and helpful vision of what we need to do in the future. I need to be aware that what my grandparents, parents and even I have done in the past has impacted the image I have of the world today and will influence the world I leave behind for my descendants.
Maybe those stacks and artifacts sitting around my house give the stories that tell me who I am and where I came from. Looking through them, I can see what I value and why that is so.
All the hints, helps and prompts sitting around my home and office cry out to me to use them in my thinking, acting and planning for tomorrow, whether I am in that future or not.
When I face the upcoming election in 2020, I have a number of issues to consider. What forms, for me, the defining issues and character types that I want as my leaders? How do I size up what is important in government and its administration? How do I understand how societies work for better or for worse? Do I need an understanding of how a representative form of democracy works? We will need some resources to help us answer these questions. There are many clues to direct us to our own conclusions. These clues come from the stories of the past that show us what was going on and what people did about it.
I don’t buy the notion that anyone is a self-made success or failure. We are the result of often unspoken influences. I was born of white color and of German heritage. My parents, through their lives, had soaked up the social patterns that fit with their heritage. They were organized, conventional and hard working. They would not have questioned authority or the status quo. I have to ask myself what biases or assumptions are hidden in me that I assume are OK. The roles for women were defined when I was young, and I have felt the sting of confrontation as I witnessed changes in gender bias as an adult.
What does it take for me to also feel the instituted roles of racial discrimination in order that I might be part of positive change?
I need the hints and prodding that the stories, the references of the past and present, give me. I need the accumulation of histories chronicling activities and attitudes of the world around me. I also need to wade into what these clues give me that helps me understand the future and make better choices. Piles and stacks are an opportunity that can become stagnant and useless if I don’t sort through them in an honest attempt to see their significance and relationship to life.
I can’t toss away the prodding to expand my sensitivity and knowledge. I need to learn all I can to be effective in this life. I better live with the swamp of ideas, personalities, events, results and pressures of the past and present each year of my life.