Friday, February 1, 2013

Were, Are, Will Be

To my son Tommy,

There is a symbiotic relationship between who you were, who you are, and who you will be. Some connections in this relationship are easy to understand. Most people understand how "who we were" effected "who we are" and how both those can have a profound effect on "who we will be". This concept is linear and appeals to our natural concepts of time and cause and effect. Less intuitive is how "who we are" effects "who we were".

In the beginning of the Internet, content and form were joined at the hip. If you wanted to print something in cyberspace you had to include how it would look. Then some people figured out they could separate content and form and Web 2.0 and XML and such was born. With this evolution it freed everyone to view content how they wish to view it. They could put every other word in large font and every third word in bold if the chose. Tis is similar to how the present effects the past.

Who you are can highlight certain aspects of who you were. The content doesn't really change but the context does. Who you are can frame the challenges of your past as your inspiration to overcome or an excuse for your current failures. It changes what people remember about you.  If you graduate college and discover a cure for cancer, people will point out how you always did well in school, were well read, and how you used to play doctor when you were young. If you end up in jail people will remember and focus in on some anger event of your past and how you were destined for trouble and never mention your younger successes.  If you end up on the cover of GQ only TMZ would highlight your younger days of parachute pants and white button down shirt over top a pink polo, most would just recall how you were always well groomed when you were young.  What you are now might not truly effect what you were, but it sure changes the highlights from your past.  It is inherent in the way people think.  People see who you are or who they are and they need to justify this and they look for answers in what they know of your past.  Just ask anyone who has attended class reunions.

Even less intuitive is how "what will be" effects "what is" and "what was". How can something that hasn't happened yet and is not set in stone have any significant effect on who I am and who I was?  Just like present accomplishments can frame who we were, future dreams and aspirations can frame who we are. Every moment of the present is a choice on how to proceed in the future. Our vision of where we want to be is just as powerful as our past. It can frame you as ambitious and dedicated or it can frame you as obsessed.

You don't have to look too far to see this concept in other areas of life. Science poses the question in theories like space time continuum and string theory and quantum entanglement. They use Schroedinger's cat in a box to try to explain such difficult concepts. Religion points to this in prayers like the Glory Be and mysteries like how Christ died to save us from all sin not just sins that had already happened but all those sins yet to come. History books are constant examples of how the present frames the past. Psychology often studies how to move between who we were and who we are to help us figure out who we will be. We have examples everywhere in life on this symbiotic relationship between past, present, and future. But the best examples of this relationship comes from the heart and is only really understood deep down inside.  The good news is, though we might not be able to physically change our past, we can put it in a good perspective as we can adjust who we are now and make good choices in who we want to be in the future.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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