I put a lot of weight in history. I read classical literature and philosophy, not for the bragging rights, but for the wisdom that has been willingly passed down to me through time. Okay, so there’s some bragging rights in there, too. But think about it: there are untold numbers of lessons taught, observations made, and proverbs to live by just waiting for you to notice them, hidden in dusty book covers, alphabetized and arranged in nice rows on shelves at free dispensaries. Why limit yourself to one lifetime’s lessons when millions have lived before you and willingly shared their story?
This is why I love quotes so much. Just like a bog being swallowed by the earth and turned into a diamond over the long course of geologic time, a quote is someone’s entire culminated experience focused into a single statement of learned wisdom. There is one in particular that has been on my mind the past few days precisely because I seem to have forgotten it’s meaning:
History can never tell the future.
I can’t even remember where I heard it. I think it was a off-handed comment in the Animatrix. An unlikely source, perhaps, but it stuck with me. It’s a nice cautionary statement that I’ve relied on more than once. And I’m relying on it yet again.
The past few weeks have brought some changes in my life as I found a new job and started to gear up for the life of a digital nomad. And when change comes, I look to others’ experience to see how they have dealt with it, be it talking to friends and family or reading a stranger’s blog post. I may be relying on others’ experience a bit too much, though.
No matter how much I read and prepare, no matter how much I attempt to turn the unknown into the known, I need to remember that history can never tell the future. Others may have wisdom of similar situations and there is nothing wrong in searching for that wisdom and taking it to heart. But there is something wrong when the pursuit of that wisdom becomes an idol, a false sense of security to ease a troubled mind. No amount of wisdom will shed light into the farthest reaches of my destination. Nor should it.
I’ll still take the light that it gives, and gladly. But light will never determine the objects it reveals. This is my future and no one knows what it will bring. That’s the scary part. It’s also the interesting part.
I’m looking forward to it.