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Perspective and Hindsight Are Good Things

January 26, 2012

“Well, perspective is 20/20.”

Sometimes, it seems to me, that when people say this cliche it has a negative connotation to it: “Yeah, I know you’re right, but that’s only because you’re making that observation after the fact.”

But is learning from the past, or even making obvious deductions from past events really a bad thing? I would contend that human beings have a wonderful gift in being able to remember and asses the past, and then use that knowledge to learn and make better decisions in the future.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. ~ Patrick Henry

Of course, there is always the inherent danger of obsessing over the past and living in regrets, shame, and guilt. However, I believe there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from our past experiences, successes, and failures. Furthermore, I would like to be the sort of person who could asses my past experiences and be honest about when I failed as a person. Not obsess over those failures but take measures to insure, as best as I could, that I responded or acted better in any new situation. To me, this is a significant aspect in growing in maturity and striving to be a better person to those you interact with on a daily basis. It involves honesty, the ability to admit mistakes, and the courage to take any measures available to grow as a functioning human being.

I am married and I have a social group of friends. I know from my own experience that when my wife has identified ways in which I’m acting that are not necessarily positive for our relationship, that our marriage has dramatically improved when I have taken the appropriate steps to correct my attitude or actions. Sometimes this takes help from outside yourself and the assistance of a professional.

Re-assessing the past is also an excellent way to test theological and philosophical ‘belief’ systems. The human brain is wired to see patterns and make connections. Sometimes those patterns are false–though they will seem very real–and the connections are tenuous at best. Pat answers and advice often seem ‘right’ when every thing is going along fairly smoothly in your life.

(via Naked Pastor)

But life is random; it is chaotic.

The human experience can be characterized by joy, happiness, and laughter.Playing golf on a beautiful sunny day. A bike ride with a friend. A child running to jump into your arms when you come home. Life can have great existential fulfillment.

It can also go very wrong.

A heart attack. A cancer diagnosis. A car accident. A child runs out for a ball or is left unattended at a pool for a couple of minutes. War. Fire can kill you. Water can kill you; heck drinking too much water can kill you… there are a lot of ways to die!

Existence; and then suddenly: non-existence.


Shallow salesmen package ‘Sermons’, ‘Platitudes’, and ‘Principles’ offering to give a person the illusion of control, or claim to give knowledge to understand how things “really” are… but then life happens. Or maybe more appropriately: death, sickness, and chaos happen; and the illusion of control is wrenched away or the ‘understanding’ is found wanting. How could this happen? Why is God doing this to me? Why is the universe not giving me my every selfish whim and desire?

Pat answers are always shattered on the anvil of experience by the hammer of life. ~ Scott Bailey

Functionally, this experience of emotional pain or mental anguish is known as cognitive dissonance. It can be extremely difficult to experience; I know, I’ve gone through it a few times in my life. But I plead with you, when it happens don’t run away into some coping mechanism. Stop, identify the pain or confusion, take stock of some of the faulty expectations or beliefs that are causing the dissonance, and reassess and learn!

Become BETTER!

We do not want to be stuck in the past, but we certainly want to learn from it and use it to stimulate our growth as human beings and make the experience of this life a more profitable and enjoyable journey…

Perspective and hindsight are good things: learn from them and use them!


The connection may seem illogical to some, but it was actually Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann that stimulated my thinking (inb4u: to use a term loosely!) on this matter.

Not long ago both candidates were sure that ‘God’ was leading them to run for the presidency (here’s one link, but there is much more material concerning this on the web). After becoming ‘God’s’ choice, both candidates eventually dropped out of the Republican candidacy race once it became apparent that they didn’t have a snowflakes chance in hell of winning. Perry is, let’s be honest here, an epic [insert pejorative preferably with vulgarity], and Bachmann is a bigot and very likely certifiably crazy.

But ‘God’ was leading them to run… I wonder what sort of mental gymnastics they have had to go through to harmonize that ‘belief’ with recent events? Is God an asshole and just messing with them by telling them to run? Were they wrong and misheard his ‘voice’? Did his will change?

Somehow I suspect from the characteristics they displayed in their brief stay in the public eye that they aren’t the sort of persons who openly and honestly assess their own beliefs and make changes towards becoming better people. But I could be wrong: Only time will tell! Perhaps in the future, I will have to be more confident in the abilities of persons such as these once more evidence comes in–and I hope to be the sort of person who weighs it fairly–but so far: not a whole lot of good evidence to change my mind!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jon Hendry permalink
    January 26, 2012 7:22 pm

    “Just because God tells you to run, it doesn’t mean he wants you to win. Maybe he wants you to lose, badly.”

  2. 4xi0m permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:42 am

    You make a lot of good points in this post. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll be well taken by people like Perry and Bachmann as long as they adhere to their ‘belief system.’ Having been brought up in such a system, I know from experience what the problem is: the emphasis on intellectual belief. Because holding certain beliefs (which often go way beyond the Nicene Creeds, by the way) is considered both meritorious and necessary to escape everlasting damnation, you learn to ignore all evidence that contradicts them–even if it comes from experience, even if it’s undisputed in the scientific community, and even if it shows your beliefs to be logically impossible. You also learn to listen eagerly and accept immediately anything that appears to confirm them. Objectivity is anathema. Skepticism is downright evil. I agree with Richard Dawkins on one thing: this is a mentality better suited to the Dark Ages (I don’t agree, however, that all religious traditions necessarily generate it–it’s more a fundamentalist thing if you ask me). Perry and Bachmann embody it so well, they make caricatures unnecessary. I do think, however, that they mean well overall, though their unfortunate intellectual framework deludes them into pursuing the wrong goals. By contrast, Gingrich is unequivocally a bad person in my opinion.

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