The Present is Exceptional
The events of the past could have led to many different possible worlds of today. The events of today can lead to many different possible tomorrows.
Many of us tend to reflect on our own lives with awareness of how specific moments have contributed to where we are. From regrets about mistakes or paths not taken to appreciation for choices that have played out beautifully, we are self-aware about how unique this present is for us.
The same is true of our larger collective – our full, complete society and the societies throughout the globe. The present is exceptional. The events that have led to today could have led to many different possible present moments, depending on major choices along the way.
I’m not talking about the butterfly effect, where a small influence on the other side of the world matters. I’m talking about the confluence of choices by leaders (elected and otherwise) and by people who have acted together that have added up to today.
This recognition of the exceptional present matters. If we understand what set of things brought us to our present, we can glean important insights about what might take us into a future that is more equitable, more just, more sustainable.
It is also important because it reminds us how many different futures we are facing. Each possible future will also be exceptional – based on the confluence of many different decisions and actions. The impact of some decisions can be mitigated by the next set of decisions – we see this in the ebb and flow cycle of elections, moving between political parties and leaders who build, tear down, rebuild, etc. each other’s legacies and priorities. Yet, even as we sway back and forth between directions and priorities within one country and across many countries, we are drifting our way forward into our exceptional future, whatever it will be.
Let me challenge you to pause and think:
If you could take one year in the history of this world and rethink it, change the decisions and actions that had broad reaching impact, what year would it be? What would you change? How would our present be fundamentally different as a result?
Now, apply that thinking to today and tomorrow. What actions and decisions are happening now that may reverberate through our future? What are the different futures that might unfold depending on whether and how these decisions are being made, actions are being taken? What inaction is affecting that future? What is possible today, but being pursued, that could drive us into a better future? What do we need to do now to find a future that is just, equitable, sustainable, and even more joyful than the one we have today?