Sequential presents. Image credit:bethgodfrey.com. (The birthday consequences of passing time?)
For those who go for the “eat as much you can” option at the buffet restaurant, one might argue that there’s never enough time at dinner.
However, those on their first romantic dinner date (this is usually a mutually exclusive group to the above buffet) it might seem that there’s too much time, or at least, that time goes too slowly. Thoughts are turned eagerly to take things to the next level. Marriage. Family. First base. (Or whatever the baseball term for it is – I’m not going to google it.)
The morning after – breakfast
After the above, I think it’s indisputable that there’s not enough time at breakfast. This holds for the arse who’s a one night stander and can’t wait to escape. But also for parents.
Kids don’t get out of bed. They don’t get dressed (or make decisions on what to wear). They don’t eat (or make) their breakfast. Brushing their teeth takes way too long. Shoes, coats, bags, getting into the car, (or when Dutch Mummy insists we cycle 6 km to school) – pedal fast enough.
There just doesn’t seem to be enough time at breakfast to make sure that all these things are done and that they get to school on time.
(If the truth be told, this is really all my fault because I myself don’t like getting out of bed, but this isn’t the point!)
Of course there’s enough time at breakfast; the problem lies in that we’re already looking to the future; in this case, being late at school.
Why do we worry about the future?
Now’s the time!
Quite often we’re advised to seize the day. Live like there’s no tomorrow. Enjoy the now.
These golden nuggets of advice have an attraction to them because they imply that our actions have no consequences. If we live like there’s no tomorrow and spend all our savings on buying a helicopter and flying off for a slap up meal, then yeah great. We get the helicopter flight we’ve always wanted and a nice meal (more likely a small portion of food smeared over your plate).
Consequences the morning after – fallout
But the brutal fact is that for most of us, there is a tomorrow. And if our money flies out of the bank account and our savings get eaten into, then the day after is going to be problematic.
In other words, there are consequences. Consequences are important. They’re a realisation of changes in the present into the future. Even if it’s only a prediction.
Walking across a plank that’s a foot wide is easy. Walking across it when it’s been raised 10 m will undoubtedly produce more concentration in the effort because the consequence of getting it wrong is not favourable. (Indeed we see it in our justice system where the undesired consequence of fines and imprisonment are deterrents to criminal behaviour.)
And at this point I can’t help noticing that con-sequences might be a stand against the sequence, the time line.
“A time for everything”
“He has also set eternity in the human heart” – Ecclesiastes 3.11 (NIV)
Decisions and actions today, will affect future todays – it’s all today. Tomorrow will become today.
The present extends into the future through consequences, and the opposite is true too – the future eventually becomes present, for example, if in the future we’re late for school you can bet the teachers are going to make us pay for it, in a moment that at some time will be now.
Without consequences, without a future, we could argue that everything is meaningless; why bother doing something if there are no consequences or no meaningful value to it?
The philosopher in Ecclesiastes posed this very question, and yet after much study he concluded that whilst everything is meaningless we can still enjoy the now.
Here’s an example:
A man is standing on a cliff enjoying the view. There’s a gust of wind and he’s blown off the edge. As he’s falling to his certain death, he spots a flower growing on the side of the cliff face.
“Ah, that’s nice!” he says, and dies a few moments later.
What’s the point in enjoying the beauty of the flower?
“Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.” – Isaiah 22:13
When fruit flies drown in a bottle of beer, people often comment that it would be a “nice way to go”. Isn’t this effectively the same as the man and the flower, enjoying everything he can until the last moment?
Indeed, this approach also seems Biblical:
“Then I commended the enjoyment of life, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry” – Ecclesiastes 8:15
Chances of death
So where does this leave us? If we’re going to die anyway, we may as well enjoy the now. But the existence of consequences means it might be reckless to do so. Then again, what are the chances of impending death tomorrow?
I guess that’s another question for the philosophers.
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