Delayed Reaction

Here’s a thought experiment for you: imagine you could make any changes you wanted to the fabric of our society. Blank check! You can create or remove or overhaul institutions, alter prevailing social trends, make ideas more or less popular, change the scope of civic leadership, etc. But (of course) there’s a catch: you have to put all your changes down on a list, and they all take effect the day after you die.

No changes happen during your lifetime, but the day after you shuffle off the mortal coil all your sweeping ideas go into effect.

Tell me – as you were reading, did your ideas change when you got to the catch?

I could be remembering wrong (the human memory is notoriously fallible), but it seems to me that when I was a very young man, the prevailing sentiment among good-hearted people when confronted with societal ills was “I want to work to make this better for my kids. I don’t want the next generation to have these same difficulties.”

I’m not sure if that attitude has largely departed or if it’s simply drowned out by noise that wasn’t there when I was younger (either is equally possible), but I think it’s a better attitude than attempting to change the world for yourself alone.

There’s still plenty of conflict to be had – what I think a better world for my kids looks like and what you think a better world for your kids looks like might be very different – but the conflict becomes more civil, less heated. We’re no longer attacking each other. We’re building.

Forget about you for a moment. What do you want the world to look like for those that come after? The real beauty of this is that time has tremendous leverage. If you say, “I want a shady back yard right now,” that would take a lot of work. If you say, “I want my kids to have a shady back yard,” all you have to do is plant a seed.

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