“Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward ” — Soren Kierkegaard
One funny thing about life is that we often look back in wonder and see answers that only seem obvious now that we know the whole story. Maybe a friend passed away or you made a difficult decision for yourself, and now you realize just how influential that change was.
There’s probably a million reasons for this, but perhaps the most important and obvious reason is because it would be cheating if we could do this in the moment. Part of the reason life is so… well, lively, is because it’s always unpredictable and open to change. Knowing the future would take away from that. Things would become mundane because we would already know the outcome.
Imagine knowing how you would die, for what reasons, when, and what events lead up to it. At first this seems scary, but I would imagine that containing this knowledge ahead of time would simply depress you. Everything would be meaningless in the face of death… or perhaps everything would have more meaning. I suppose we’ll never know. Which ironically brings us back to our quote.
Life can only be understood backwards… but on the other side of the coin, it can only be lived forwards. By this, Kierkegaard means that you can only know how things will turn out if you actually live through them. You can’t spend so long thinking about what might happen that you get analysis paralysis — otherwise the worst is almost destined to happen. A foolproof plan to get through this is to remind yourself that sometimes you can’t do anything without disaster striking… meaning you might as well pick the scenario where the disaster strikes but you still get something good out of it. Being surrounded by enemies simply means that you can attack in any direction and actually hit something — so you might as well pull the trigger before they’re right on top of you. So with that in mind, reflect on the past carefully and charge head on into the future.
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