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Peering Into The Future

Some people possess a talent to peer deep into the future. In Biblical times people called them prophets. In the Middle Ages, people believed them wizards. Today they are economists who make projections based upon previous business data. 

Thomas Paine was an unknown writer in Philadelphia, fresh off the boat from England, but he peered deep into the future, more than did others already here. 

In 1776, in “Common Sense, Paine wrote, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation similar to the present hath not happened since the days of Noah until now.

“The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men, as perhaps numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the events of a few months.”

Paine was wrong about one thing there. The American Revolution lasted for over eight years, not “the events of a few months.” Yet, after two and a half centuries, we can conclude that Paine for the most part was correct in his opinion of America. 

 He saw what his contemporaries dared not to see, that the colonists in America needed to separate from King and Parliament. 

In recent years, Warren Buffett echoed Paine’s long-term view of the United States.

 “I’ll repeat what I’ve said in the past and expect to say in future years: Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history. It is a mistake to bet against America.”

Thomas Paine and Warren Buffett recognized America’s vast potential, a runway of opportunity for the world’s ambitious and hardworking people, a flywheel of success, a role model for other nations. 

Their optimism in America’s future is a breath of fresh air that defies the prevalent pessimism that disturbs many Americans’ thoughts today. Zig Ziglar, a prominent 20th century sales trainer, called that “stinking thinking.”

 I say, “toss aside the ‘stinking thinking,’” “discard it,” “throw it out the window.” 

 Instead, grab hold of that same optimism that has enlightened millions of previous generations of Americans who were “fresh off the boat,” but knew how to work and strive for a better life and how to demonstrate that they belong here. They succeeded.

 This week I mark the beginning of another decade of life, in America. At this lofty age, and after thirty-five years of writing biweekly columns, I submit a series of observations. 

A first observation: America remains a wonderful place to build a better future.

A second observation: the zealots of the world who harangue or even riot because of political or religious disputes refuse to peer very far into the future. Their thirst and grasp for immediate power clouds their thinking. They see “now” but cannot see “later.”

They play checkers, jumping hither and thither, rather than chess, where they marshal their capital resources and apply them in a planned attack across sixty-four squares.

A third observation: how one treats others often dictates how far a person rises in the future. Treat others with dignity, and that tide of goodwill will lift all boats. 

A fourth observation: hesitation often yields better results. There is a reason that the producers entitled Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone’s movie, “The Quick and the Dead.” Hesitation forces a person to peer into a future and check out surprise contingencies.

A fifth observation: writing and thinking are often synonymous, different sides of a coin. Shakespeare, Emerson, and Thomas Paine, I am convinced, are the better writers because they thought the best, and they thought the best because they wrote so well.

When writing and thinking, a person peers into an undefined future and sees shapes.

I say to you my dear readers, gaze deep into your own future and build whatever it is that you envision there. “A birthday of a new world is at hand.”  

 

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