Emma Morano. Image courtesy mental floss.com via Creative Commons.
The last person born in the nineteenth century has died. This blows my mind. To think:
- This woman, Emma Morano, remembered the first time that news came to her hometown of a man who could get in a machine and leave the bonds of earth.
- She was a teenager when the German Kaiser invaded western Europe.
- She was (forcibly) married and then (thankfully) divorced long before the culture allowed it.
- She was hitting middle age when Germany invaded her country again.
- She retired from her factory job before the culture revolution of the 1960s took off.
- And she lived all the way through to the digital age.
I have a theory about long life.
In the article, people point to her diet (she ate eggs every day), which is fine and all, but I think there’s something more powerful in most lives than what we eat. And here it is:
We live out our image of our own future.
Companies love to talk about vision. Which is sad because they’ve destroyed a good word.
A vision is simply an image of the future. Many of these same people love to (mis)quote Jeremiah and say, “without a vision, people perish.”
It is wrong to say that we must create a vision of the future. The truth is, everybody has a vision of the future. Everyone lives out the images they have in their mind about their own future.
When a person is young, the image is pretty set. My freshman daughter has an image in her mind of three years of high school and four years of college. Her next seven years are set.
It gets harder as we age though. Sometimes we get stuck. But the reason isn’t that we lose a vision of the future, as people claim. It’s that our image of the future becomes dark.
Say for example a young man grew up in a home with a drug addicted mother and an absentee father. He swears he’ll be different and escape his circumstances. And he tries. But if he is to be successful, he must develop an image in his mind of what his future will look like. Will he own a home someday? Have a wife and two kids? Maintain a professional career? What he often doesn’t see is that at one point, he will get to a crossroads where he must take a path that is unmodeled. He will have to make decisions his father didn’t make, and he will have no one around to guide him.
Often, what happens at this point is that he struggles to shed the negative legacy given to him by his father. His vision is of being absentee. Or, his mother’s vision is of doing drugs.
This example is extreme, but the point is, we already have a vision of the future. The question isn’t, can you create a vision of the future, but what is yours? Is it destructive or creative?
The challenge at every life stage is to continue to form and hold on to creative images of our own future.