When I was a kid, I remember my mother once telling me that although we think of ourselves moving forward through time (facing the future), there was a tribe or culture or race somewhere that said we moved through time facing backwards (a quick 30 seconds on Google to research who it might have been didn’t throw anything up, but if anyone happens to know, please do sate my curiosity).
I only remembered this a few days back when it popped into my head in the middle of a discussion with a friend about concepts of time. Since then I’ve discovered myself mulling over it several times.
It makes an extraordinary amount of sense when you think about it. We can only see where we’ve been, not where we’re going. What has happened to us is clearly visible, but what is about to happen is pure guesswork.
Imagine we are walking backwards along a path. The only way of knowing which way the path is going is by looking at where it’s been and looking for repetitions and patterns to try and work out where it might go next.
If the curve of the path is gentle, then we can correct our course before we reach the edges as we notice the bend. But if it is a sharp turn, we will be off the expected track before we know it.
If the path has been fairly straight for quite a while, we get lulled into a false sense of security and begin to assume it will just carry on being straight forever, or at least for the immediate future. But the reality is we cannot know that for certain, and at any time it could make a sudden and unforeseen change in direction.
So many of the dramatic changes in our lives happen without warning – too quickly for us to realise the path has twisted unpredictably.
Just because we can see where we’ve been, doesn’t mean we know where we’re going.
At some point there is an inevitable cliff top waiting for all of us. We just won’t know where it is until it’s too late.
We really do need to take more time to savour this moment than assuming there will be plenty more to come.