Most of my life I’ve had a “future orientation.” As a kid I always saved things for later. When I got prizes of candy in school I would bring it home instead of eating it right away. I once lost out when I tried to bring home an ices, and it melted in my knapsack. I would carefully ration out the goodies I got on Purim, always worried that if I finished it now, I wouldn’t have any later – never mind that my mother kept a cabinet stocked with cookies and candies. I felt that it was important that I have my own nosh available if I wanted it. I would sometimes put things away for when I got married or had kids. Most of that stuff is still in my parents’ attic.
As I got older planning for the future became more realistic and more important. I had to do well in school so I would get into high school and college. I went to bais medrash because I was told that if I didn’t, I would never find a shidduch. (As it turned out, that wasn’t true.) I went to grad school so I could find a job.
I realized recently that the future I’ve been planning for my whole life is right now. I’m married, I have kids, I’m finished with school and have a job (sort of). And… that’s it.
Sure, I still have plans for the future. Like, I’d like to buy a house someday. But I’m not pushing towards those goals the way I used to. My attitude has changed from sacrificing the present for the sake of the future to enjoying the present and letting the future come when it may.
On a somewhat related note: I was thinking this morning about the conservation movement that’s grown up in the last couple of decades. Save the planet for our children and all that. And I was wondering, why bother?
It seems to be driven by our instinct to preserve our species and based on the premise that it is worthwhile for us to make sacrifices in the present so that future generations will survive and progress. But this presupposes that humanity will be able to survive and progress indefinitely. That’s simply not true. In a few billion years the sun will burn out. Even if we colonize other solar systems, all the stars will eventually burn out, and ultimately humanity will die out. What is the difference, ultimately, if that happens in a hundred years or a trillion? Emotionally, we can’t really process a trillion years, and so tend to dismiss this distant inevitability as unimportant. On the other hand, a hundred years from now is within our grandchildren’s lifetime, maybe even our children’s. Still, emotion aside, humanity is doomed. Does it really matter when?
I’ll leave you now to more cheerful thoughts.