I saw this segment on CBS Sunday Morning show a while back – “Let Us Praise 1962”:

 

I thought it was sort of an interesting piece and it got me to thinking about the span of five decades – 18,262 days, 438,300 hours, 26,298,000 minutes and 1,577,880,000 seconds. Wow, more than 1.5 billion seconds sure seems like a long time when you look at it that way, but that is just throwing around some numbers. In that 50 year span can be seen man walking on the moon, space probes to the planets, human heart transplants, the eradication of smallpox, cloning, human genome decoded, the personal computer, the internet and a whole host of other technological advancements. There have been social advancements too such as civil rights and the Women’s Movement as well as a host of other social issues. In the Star Trek episode “Space Seed”, Kahn Noonien Singh is awakened after 200 years in suspended animation and remarks:

I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed.” He later adds, ” Nothing ever changes, except man. Your technical accomplishments? Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity. But improve man and you gain a thousand fold.”

 

Khan failed to see that the technical achievements were part of the improvement of man, but he could only see it from a perspective of superior breeding or genetic engineering. In essence, it was the technology that made a being like Khan possible. Khan, you see, failed to make use of the lesson of the past in Looking Backward. He was unwilling to alter his perspective or methods towards a new future. In other words, he couldn’t make use of his past experience towards a different future experience and just wanted to recreate the old world he had lost. Looking Backward means understanding the relevance of what is past, making use of it in the present and keeping it in mind for the future. It’s the reflective perspective that matters. I am reminded of Plato’s allegory of the Cave. So, Plato describes a group of people chained to facing a wall (all their lives), who only see the world from shadows of the images passing between them and the firelight behind them, and that is their reality. Plato says, that the man freed from this environment is like the philosopher, who has experienced the perception, but has grasped the true reality. This is like Looking Backward also. Maybe a real-life example helps to explain.

I do opine on my past relationships sometimes and my last one (gone for a few years now) had a perception and reality. In perception, we traveled the world, enjoying the moments, sharing love and being a team together, helping each other along the way. In reality, I felt I was always being judged, scrutinized, picked apart, such that I never felt comfortable letting my guard down. This was not a path to intimate sharing. I know that now, but didn’t know it then. Looking Backward has helped me to see that, and the perception and reality are different. I don’t wish to portray her as a bad person, because she was not, but we just saw the world from very different perspectives and points of view. It’s nobody’s fault and that is just the way it is or was. I don’t regret that our paths crossed for a time and  that is what Looking Backward is all about – to see what was, what is and what can be in going forward with some self reflection as a guide.

Brian & Regine

Brian Walsh & Regine DeWees

I don’t pretend to be a wise man who knows all, and am just a man who likes to reflect (in Plato’s Cave) and turn to see the reality sometimes. Looking Backward, I maintain, allows the privilege to take a glance at how things really are. It is using your past experience to make decisions in the present that define or determine the future. Make sense? One day, most of us will be faced with a dilemma in life. How to face that relies, fundamentally,  on Looking Backward – and drawing on that for strength, knowledge and wisdom. When someone close to you dies, are your thoughts for them, or for your own loss and how do you frame that? Think about it… Your thoughts define you in reality.

I don’t wish to end on a question, so I will say this. Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. The past has a place in Looking Backward, but you can only make a difference today, so use that for positive change tomorrow. Don’t ever let anybody tell you who you are supposed to be and just be yourself. As Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young advised:

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

Looking Backward

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