The Past is a Big Fat Lie

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom - Soren Kierkegaard

As the brilliant and paranoid mathematician Kurt Godel famously demonstrated, one of the greatest discoveries of our immaterial age is that there are truths which cannot be proven.

I think there is a human corollary to this perfect flaw.

The intoxicants we gather from experience, or take from pages of literature or the arms of love, and from which we draw life lessons and into which we recycle these lessons, nears perfection, but nearer perfection only if we're willing to abandon the past. I'll give you an example. At the IdeaFestival in 2008, and near the depths of a financial collapse, author and master contrarian Nassim Nicholas Taleb memorably said that "for every Turkey, Thanksgiving Day is a Black Swan." Fat and fed, the birds never see the Big One coming; but for the butcher, it's a predictable event.

It wasn't helpful.

Over and over again we're reminded that we're not nearly as transparent to ourselves as we'd like to believe. Findings from game theory to psychology to neuroscience tell us that our motives may not be dark, but they are shaded. Taleb's warning about excessive speculation - which to be fair, he had given many times prior to the financial calamity, and which sprang from a genuinely conservative approach to finance - wasn't helpful because having grown anxious from the news of the world, many in the audience that day quite naturally wondered about the future. What was this guy saying?

Here's what I think. It wasn't helpful because the future never really belongs to seers and fortune tellers, does it? We're human.

If you're willing to walk away, truth means getting what comes next, right at last.