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Who says the future can't wait?

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With Labor Day a week away, we've long since reached the season of the summer's-almost-over-people. They're the folks you remember from your childhood who remarked, any time after August 1st, ''Well, it won't be long now.''

Only a very innocent or a very backward child would ask, ''Not long till what?'' - allowing the tormentor to pounce with the answer: ''Till school starts again.''

There's a little something to be said for living in the future, and from time to time philosophers have said it, arguing that the capacity to frame a future (and a past) is what distinguishes human beings from animals. But a well-developed sense of time can be a terrible nuisance to its possessor, and the people who have to live with the possessor.

The ''Well-it-won't-be-long-now'' adult will still be there ten years later to tell you (as if you didn't know), ''Well, it won't be long before you're through school. What are you going to do then?''

We once lived with an otherwise model adult who had clocks ticking within his clocks. His apprehension that his friends and loved ones were falling behind some schedule of life - perceived only by him - drove him into a frenzy of mixed metaphors.

''You're going to miss the boat,'' he would cry when his timetable told him somebody should have decided upon a career or gotten married. ''The party's started, and you're not there.''

A couple of years later the refrain would escalate - with many a headshake - to read: ''If you haven't done it by now, you never will.''

All this can be enough to turn the harangued victim into a late bloomer - though late blooming is another story.

Everybody, to some degree, is a futurist. What distinguishes a normal forward-looking person from an obsessed specialist? We suggest the ice cream cone test.

If you are a normal forward-looking person, as you take the first lick, you will anticipate the first crunch of the sugar cone below. Don't worry about that.


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