Life Understood Backwards…

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“It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.” 
Søren Kierkegaard

Past & Present

Søren Kierkegaard’s quote “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards,” reminds me of the intricacies of navigating a timeline that pushes us in only one direction – forward.  It is impossible to even go back a few seconds, much less a decade or a lifetime.   Instead, we have been given the gift of memory that allows us to reflect upon events, circumstances and decisions that have nuanced our journey.

Over the past weeks, looking backwards has given me a glimpse into an ancient world which is often celebrated within the framework of legend that borders on mythology.   Yet, these men and women were made of flesh and blood.  They lived extraordinary lives and left a legacy for those that came after.  As I read their narratives, I wondered why they chose to think differently, to ignore the demands of accepted cultural norms. They embraced a more arduous route, seeking fulfillment that transcended trivial rewards offered by a status quo existence.

This week, I want to look backwards, to pause and reflect on the lives of the ancients, from Euclid to Aspasia, Thales to Zeno, Hipparchia to Ptolemy.  I confess that I have not mapped out an outline for the next few posts, merely an idea that I want to follow as I consider my place in a world that is moving ever forward.

“Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Albert Einstein

The Tipping Point

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Mälardrottning. Stockholm City Hall

Mälardrottning. Stockholm City Hall

Over a century ago, Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, orator, writer, statesman and one-time slave, clearly outlined the consequences of inequality. “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Today, we live in a fast paced global world where knowledge sharing is instantaneous.  Injustice and inequalities can no longer be swept under the table.  David Korten, economist, author, political activist, argues that,  “In a world of increasing inequality, the legitimacy of institutions that give precedence to the property rights of ‘the Haves’ over the human rights of ‘the Have Nots’ is inevitably called into serious question.”

Perhaps our interconnected world will bring us more quickly to a tipping point where we recognize that equality, however flawed or imperfect it may be in reality, will grant us the privilege of continued existence.

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” 
― Søren Kierkegaard

Thunderstorms

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Genius can be unsettling, even intimidating.   Perhaps that’s what we need to feel every so often…

“Geniuses are like thunderstorms.  They go against the wind, terrify people, cleanse the air.”

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard