One of my favorite newspaper writers is a guy named Craig Wilson. He may do other things as well, but my exposure to him comes from the weekly article he does for USA Today. It’s probably fair to say that I like him because I nearly always agree with him (I suppose that’s pretty much true for everybody, huh?). Up until last week’s column, anyway. On that occasion, we parted company a bit.
Why? Well, because he said that each new year was like a “blank slate”. “The future”, he said, “was hope”.
I can’t argue with the “hope” part, I guess. Even I’m not that cynical. But I don’t subscribe to the “blank slate” thought. The only thing I know of that’s new about 2012 is the fresh calendar hanging on my wall. Otherwise we’re looking at all the same old stuff.
I suppose Craig Wilson might have been pulling our collective leg. He’s certainly not above doing the tongue – in – cheek thing. But I think he was being at least partly serious. When he was talking about the virtues of not looking back, for example, he even took a shot at those of us who like to make photographs while on the road.
“I’m so good at not looking back that I can go on vacation and take no pictures. None. Friends always ask to see the photos from a trip, and I always proudly say there aren’t any”.
Blasphemy. How the heck can you travel hundreds or thousands of miles sans camera? It’d be like going into a restaurant and just looking at the menu. You don’t have to eat anything – just read the menu and try to remember what it said. Exploring Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona without a camera and tripod? What’s the point? Well, OK. There is a point. It would still be worth it. But oh so much better with the camera.
No, 2012 isn’t a “blank slate”. As Shakespeare said in The Tempest, “what’s past is prologue”. You can’t define today – or tomorrow – without yesterday. Everything is a continuation. We may not be able to predict specific events, but we can predict general behaviors. What we’ve done before we’ll do again. And that’s the scary part. We just keep making the same stupid mistakes. As individuals and as a society. Humans are creatures of habit. If we screwed up last year, the chances are very good that we’ll do it again this year.
I think that’s why science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once said:
” I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it”.