In the physical realm, the location of our eyes on our faces allows us to see what is ahead of us but not behind us. That is in fact contrary to life’s daily reality which declares that, since we have no control or certain knowledge over the future, though we may claim to see what is ahead of us, we do not know for certain anything about it.
On the other hand, though we may not give much importance to what is behind us, we have more certainty about what has happened in the past than to what will happen in the future. We know where we come from, but we can’t truly say where we're going. Even in this technological age, we do not even know if the earth and all the political, biological, economic and digital elements that held us yesterday will hold us tomorrow. How should we then chart our way into the unknown darkness of our uncertain future?
A wise King named Solomon one time shared a remarkable observation. He said,, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) This could be considered “intelligence” to help us navigate the dark seas ahead.
Since we can see what is behind us and there is nothing new that hasn't happened before, the best way to navigate this world is by walking forward in a backward motion. It would be physically insane and even dangerous to do so physically, but rather sane and safe to do so philosophically. As the famous quote says, “Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it!”
In actuality, most of us can testify that the charting of our daily lives is a reflection of the lessons we learned in our less educated days. As such, we do use the past, what is behind us, as a compass for the future. The lessons of the past have helped us to set boundaries to our lives which is good, but as a person or a society, problems arise when we get frustrated at the wise boundaries of the smarter people who walked this earth before us and revert to the ignorance of our past ways.
The charting of our future by our past not only keeps us safe on our way but also helps us know where we're going, as well as realise when we get there so that we’re not like the man who was aimlessly travelling. When he stopped at a restaurant on the side of the road, the lady at the cash register asked him,
“Where are you going? “
“Nowhere in particular!” he answered. She then asked,
“How will you know when you get there?”
A conversation is said to have taken place between a hen and a hog. Aa they passed the town hall, they saw the subject on which the mayor was speaking that night, "How Can We Help the Poor in Our City?" After a moment's reflection, the hen said, "I know what we can do. We can give them a ham-and-egg breakfast!" The hog protested, saying, "The breakfast would be only a contribution for you, but for me it would mean total commitment!"
As hoggish as he may be, the hog saw right through the hypocrisy of the hen who would so voluntarily give of her abundance, while suggesting her friend gives of his very livlihood..
We all benefit from what is given to us. We all owe our peace and quiet to the civil servants, soldiers, firefighters, policemen, EMTs and doctors, around us. We owe it even to our neighbors who, out of a simple sense of community, would warn us if something fishy was happening in our house while we were gone. That’s why we live in communities for support, strength, and security. We are in a sense indebted to the society around us so that when we give, we only repay what has been laid at our feet for free.
When we give, we are really just give back of what has been extended to us. Real giving goes beyond that. I heard it said one time, “It doesn’t count till it hurts!” Indeed, it is when it hurts that we start really giving and investing in others. That’s when we go beyond and give more than has been given to us.
I love JFK’s words, “Seek not what your country can do for you, but rather seek what you can do for your country!” and we do so through our giving to the community. The thing is, do we give like the hen or like the hog? The measure of our giving is not in the gift, but in what we’ve got left after we’re done giving!
Hachi was a Japanese dog who used to accompany his master to the railroad station each morning and then wait at the station to greet him in the evening as he returned . One night in 1925, the man did not return, having died in another city. Although the little dog had met its master only a few months previously, for over 10 years from the day of his master’s death, the dog went to the station every night--sadly trotting home again after waiting an hour.
The faithfulness of Hachi impressed the nation so much that the government erected a statue of the dog on the spot where he had perseveringly waited--and then sent statuettes to all schools in the then Japanese empire. This is a true story.
This story is a testament to the faithfulness and loyalty of a dog. This dog had one master to whom he was devoted. The story goes on to say that after his master died, the dog even stayed and slept in a corner of the station. The workers were so touched that they regularly gave him food and water. Hachi had one duty which he did no matter what. He served an audience of one: his master.
Surely we can learn something from Hachi. Modern ideas teach us to give of ourselves conditionally. We play our part or fulfill our role only of things are pleasant and going our way. We learn to be not only fairweather friends but also fairweather workers, volunteers, and even fairweather parents and spouses as this sort of lack of commitment has infiltrated the realm of marriage and parenthood. When we do so, like Hachi we also serve an audience of one, but the “one” is ourselves.
The noble idea of the “pursuit of happiness” has become a personal selfish end rather than something that we live to ensure for others. Modern society feels the deadly results of such self-centered philosophy. I for one believe that the greatness of a person lies in the power of his surrender, of his surrender to a cause greater than he is, to a cause that requires him to stretch even beyond the narrow confines of his personal comfort. Those kinds of people give themselves to the task at hand being concerned of neither audience or reward. Those are the greats of history that we honor. Like Hachi, they serve just “cause.”
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"