I came across this brilliant reflection from Christopher Beha in Harper’s Magazine, in which he laments our “pathological” relationship with the future. He notices a shift in the way contemporaries think about our relationship with time, and he finds it troubling. Here’s a taste:
If you wanted to put your life into a larger context that might give it meaning, you looked to the past—the age of heroes, the age of gods, the time of the covenant, the time before the flood or the fall. It was then that some lasting standard had been established against which your own life could be judged. You related your present circumstances to history by telling stories about it.
We need history because it roots us. I believe Beha is right in making a connection between our obsession with knowing the future and the anxieties that plague us. He notes that while the future is harder to predict than ever before (election polls?), we seem to rely more than ever before on future prognostications to give the present meaning. That’s not a good combination. Check out the whole article.