Monday, April 11, 2011

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Famous last words: "It seemed like a good idea at the time." How many times have we heard those words? We recall harbouring ideas and notions in our minds and expressing these in words that go on to sound ridiculous in hindsight. Tragic that for many of us, wisdom usually comes when it is most useless -- when it is too late.

Fueled by powerful emotions -- pride, self importance, misplaced senses of entitlement, feelings of invincibility, bloated estimations of self-worth -- we launch into tirades, fly into rages, surrender to sudden impulses, and go for broke. We then imagine that out of such a frenzy of "action" we will be greeted by a chorus of applause and accolades from an imagined throng of watching admirers.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately the aftermath of such sweet surrenders reveals something else in most cases: reality. The reality of our smallness, our averageness, our inconsequentiality, and our replaceabilty relative to what we made ourselves out to be in surrendering to our hubris.

While it is true that an ability to reflect on events past is a virtue, I believe what sets apart the truly insightful is the ability to reflect upon future consequences of one's present actions. Perhaps some may be gifted with such an ability and enjoy the benefit of going through life guided by theory and first principles alone, while others are doomed to learn primarily from experience and be motivated by memories of past experiences that stung them. Unfortunately learning from experience is premised on surviving said experience from which one derives that hard lesson. Not too many people are that lucky.

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