The king of all adages goes something like, "If I only knew then what I know now." We live in the present with the conviction that we could change our lives for the better if only we could take our experiences back with us to an earlier time in our lives.
Having lived a pretty long time, I could produce a 10-page laundry list of do's and don'ts for my younger self. I'm not ancient, but a younger me could be 50. Then, again when I was 50 I considered my current age "old." Now it's like 80 or 90.
Guys my age like to say, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would've taken better care of my body." Boomer humor.
One of the benefits of being my age is that I've seen a lot of history in the making. Of course, I'd rather be a lot younger and just read about it, but living it provides a more visceral perspective. It also allows one to examine one's personal history in parallel with History.
Using myself as a microcosm of the history of the world, I'm less inclined now to believe that any accumulated knowledge would provide significant guidance than I was when I was young and naive. It certainly doesn't work out there for the rest of the world.
War is one of those deju-vu-all-over-again things that has to make even the most hawkish among us question its utility. Afghanistan has been a morass for all who attempt to conquer it for two millennium. We got our lunch handed to us at the Bay of Pigs. Vietnam was a quagmire for the French before we ever got there.
Reagan invaded Grenada as much to shake America out of "Vietnam Syndrome" as he did to rescue American students there and it cost us a couple dozen of our most elite troops, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS.
Based on the repetitive nature of human history, it seems like the only conclusion at which we can arrive is that we're going to do what we're going to do. No matter what we know, no matter what we supposedly learned in the process of living. We're hard-wired to repeat the most inane and costly of our mis-steps.
In a way, it's a relief. I don't have to worry about re-living any of the past or how I could've avoided the pitfalls that seemed to wait for me around every corner.
The good news is that I can spend the money I've been saving up for a time machine on a new motorcycle. Heck, a couple hours in the wind and the past is where it belongs: back there where I can't see it any longer in my rear view mirrors.
Note to younger self: Avoid sugar, corn syrup, refined grains and processed foods. Read more non-fiction and take all the computer classes you can. Hey, you never know.
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