Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in a scene from Back to the Future (Universal Studios).
Change, Economics, Parenting, Philosophy, Relationships, The Future

The Hand At The End of Change

As I listen to the fun-loving and free sounds of Louis Prima I can’t help but want to be in the room where he is entertaining. It makes me smile every time and it just seems like he is having fun. Truthfully, I’m jealous and it makes me wonder if I had lived in a different place and time if I would choose to live my life differently. That’s a tall order for any existentialist, but it gives me pause. I’ve tried to displace this thought with the familiar grass is greener on the other side counterargument, but logic tells me that the future would allow for a change that past cannot. Dale Carnegie said that:

“You and I are standing this very second at the meeting place of two eternities: the vast past that has endured forever, and the future that is plunging on to the last syllable of recorded time. We can’t possibly live in either of those eternities – no, not even for a split second. But, by trying to do so, we can wreck both our bodies and our minds. So let’s be content to live the only time we can possible live: from now until bedtime.”

So the immediate future is up for grabs as far as we can control it. Barring any outside force (an economist would propose holding all other variables constant), how do I change? In the movie Frozen, one of the supposed female trolls sings a line “Cuz’ people don’t really change”. Is that true as well? Is that why I find it so difficult to course correct; because it’s our actions that change and not who we are? I don’t think so. I’ve heard the question asked, are people inherently good or bad? I think they are two distinct individuals separated by the beholder. In short, they are the person they perceive and they are the person others perceive them to be. The person they perceive is based on their judgments; how they were raised, outside influence, and the choices made by or for them. Those outside have only their perceptions of the words and actions they witness themselves or through their circle of influence. Based on this, each different outsider has the opportunity to view them in hundreds of different ways. However, it comes back to the inside and outside beholder. If we get any more complicated, this will die the death of a thousand qualifications.

Although I’ve read no poll on this, my gut tells me that most of us would like to change something very hardwired in us. In truth, I feel 99% of us may want to do this, but only 10% of us might actually try and 5% of us might succeed. Again, it’s not scientific, but experience, history, the very past we fight tells us that we repeat. There’s a cost to everything. My cost may be taking a less lucrative job or losing sleep to spend more time with my wife and children. It might be dropping this blog so I can lose 25 pounds exercising in the time it takes me to write my posts.

Whatever it is, if I’m to be in the 5%, I have to live each day with a goal and purpose in mind. I would challenge anyone reading this to look and imagine the end of their life. What would you want said of you in both your accomplishments and character? Begin the day, the planning, the purposeful living with that end in mind and your decisions just might become clearer and by extending one purposeful hand to change you may be able to reach the end with the other.

News, World History

What We Can Learn From History and Ukraine

When I was a boy my grandmother told me that learning history was useless. She inferred through a night of educational television that it was merely a cycle of human error; the greatest of which was going to college to teach history. After all, those senseless people just teach history too and repeat that useless cycle. Divining at this point in her life included a solid inhale and exhale of oxygen from her tank and an immediate puff on the cigarette. History might have taught her something about oxygen and lighters.

On the way home from work today I was listening to NPR news and was able to catch the aftermath of the recent Russian invasion into Ukraine. This, and the scores of other war rumors chanting around the globe, has had a profound effect on my view of history. It seems trite to say that history repeats itself, but it’s just that simple. My grandmother, incendiary extraordinaire, didn’t see the future as I do today. Frankly, it’s alarming when you view this crisis through eyes of those who lived in Ukraine during the Stalin induced genocidal famine of 1932-1933. I warn you that researching this little recognized but profound atrocity is not for the faint of heart or children and viewing images can be sickening.

It’s estimated that during that 2 year period an average of 25,000 people died per day in Ukraine. In the end, an estimated 8 to 10 million died. Videos I’ve watched of survivors giving their heart-felt and tear-ridden account of those days weakened and humbled me greatly. The entire country was drained of any food and starved to death. People desperate for a single grain of wheat would go and carry bodies out on carts to be buried. When no dead bodies were found, those close to death were grabbed and carted away. One women I listened to said that large sections of the burial grounds were moving with those still alive and buried. Cannibalism also ensued.

If I were Ukraine I too would be very weary of a Russian occupation. Edmund Burke said that “[a]ll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. I tend to agree with him in most cases; especially today.

If my grandmother were still alive I would tell her that a healthy dose of history can save us from repeating our mistakes, and in this case, it could save an entire nation. Also, knowing what I know now about oxygen and fire, I would stand further away while she divining.