Lately I’ve been asking myself “What gets to be in the future?” Do these plants I’ve planted in my garden? Does my pet dog and pet bird? Do good relationships with my spouse, my family, and my friends? Does my house that was built in 1880? Does the majestic view of the cathedral, state Capitol, and city skyline across the river? Does the building I work in? Does the Web and the Internet? Does art and expression? Do these nations? Do these cities? Do these fields and wild spaces? Do my dreams? Do your dreams? Do our collective aspirations for humanity?
Asking “What gets to be in the future?” provides an instructive lens for seeing our world. In my day-to-day life, there are plenty of objects, monuments, social structures, ideas, systems, technologies, values, and patterns that have managed to persist from the past to now. Some of these “time travelers” are desirable, some are less so or neutral, and others we could really do without.
We, the people of today, have a role to play in selecting and shaping what will persist forward through time. Our choices now ripple out into the lives of future people. We have no direct control over what will ultimately make it to their world(s)—their own decisions will be influential and wildcard disruptions are always around the corner—but, like people of the past, we have roles to play in guiding what gets started, what gets to continue, and what one day can emerge as new possibilities become available.
Future people will ultimately make many decisions about their world, but our decisions today may limit or expand their options, lock in or disrupt patterns, provide helpful tools and resources or landmines to avoid, or grow or shrink the scope of challenges they collectively face.
What do we most hope will continue forward to affect the lives of future generations? The more intentionally we can answer this question, the better we can take the actions necessary to help those objects, systems, institutions, ideas, and aspirations travel forward through time. Ultimately, our actions today have influence upon the lives of future people.
What gets to be in the future? Whatever we are paying attention to. What has your attention today? What gifts are you stewarding through time for the benefit of future people?