"Don't stop thinkin' about tomorrow." Is that good advice? In thinking and writing about patience and hope, I've (finally) had to start thinking more explicitly about time and in particular the idea of "the future." I was struck the other evening by the thought that perhaps it is bad to think too much about the future. Perhaps that much is obvious. But then it occurred to me that this (obvious?) point might be used to diagnose a certain backwards-ness in our thinking about how we (the collective, cultural we) have come to face various crises of an environmental and economic sort (these are no doubt interconnected): we think too much, not too little, about the future. The usual story is that we make trouble for ourselves and the environment by not thinking enough about the future (the down-the-road consequences of our actions), or by thinking badly about the future. But perhaps it's too much anticipation and anxiety about the future that's the problem: thus, we hoard goods, buy things we don't need (expecting future pleasures that evidence suggests will wane anyhow), and are generally preoccupied trying to get to somewhere else because our present lot is intolerable.
Of course, we can't (or perhaps shouldn't) do away with all planning and striving, in part because sometimes our present lot is, in one way or another, in need of change. But perhaps part of what we should plan and strive to do (paradoxically?) is to think less about the future and pay more attention to today. In part this is simply because we can't solve tomorrow's problems, since we don't know what they will be. My thinking is that none of this will serve as an excuse for ignoring or downplaying various environmental concerns, but perhaps rather serve as a better way of thinking about them. (Would we be more likely to share and to be content with the present and simpler
goods in life if we thought less about the (or our) future?) But this is all pretty vague at this point. Thoughts?