Linda Downing

Shortsightedness in a long-range world

Linda M. Downing

We understand in theory much that we do not put into practice. Like a 3-year-old being potty-trained, who upon soiling her new training pants, says, "Just put a diaper on me," we're old enough to understand "mess-up" but not old enough to prevent it. Maturity demands some effort to see the future payoff.

Despite our persistence in adopting resolutions and setting goals, we are mostly shortsighted. Like the 23-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, humans were created with long-range vision ability but rarely use it to full capacity. To maximize Hubble's potential involved application of concepts developed by that genius of geniuses-Albert Einstein.

According to astronomers, the Hubble has done what, until now, we relegated to science fiction. It has time-travelled back some 13.2 billion years to "cosmic dawn." It has by-passed the Big Bang by 500 million years to see never-before-seen galaxies in their embryonic state. Even the Associated Press' attempt at explanation is too complicated for most of us. It required a lot of reading by this writer to synthesize this incomparable discovery into a few, halfway understandable words. Einstein's understanding allowed him to see time-past, present, future-as one, continuous spectrum.

The January/February AARP Bulletin has published results of a study it calls "The Boomer View." The older boomers, age 65 plus, appear more optimistic and less regretful than their younger counterparts, ages 50-64. The questions involved such serious topics as regrets, money worries, future hope, and stress.

Carole Fleck, commenting on the study, says, "Few would argue that boomers didn't get to live their lives on their own terms." There is much truth in that statement, especially for women locked into their roles by the culture of their youth, but to say it constitutes a "generation gap" is a stretch. Has there ever been or will there ever be a people, no matter what generation, who feel they can completely live life "on their own terms"? Many try; all fail.

It is more likely that the older boomers are coming face-to-face with their own mortality. Like Einstein and all before them, they will die. What used to be a long-range possibility is suddenly a short-range certainty. To be asked to look back and answer questions about whether or not they chose the right profession, should have delayed children, or ended a bad relationship is becoming more and more a waste of the time left. It is what it is.

What is good is that when we recognize past is past, present is fleeting, and future beckons, we get closer to Einstein's projected view that there is a future. Shortsightedness rules a long-range world, but it doesn't have to hold sway over our personal one.

In theory, that's true. In practice, even Jesus was incredulous over our obstinate refusal to use the time we have to view our lives from an eternal perspective: "Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?" (Mark 8:18).

If Hubble is telling us anything, it is that both the beginning and ending-our shortsighted way of looking at life-is infinite and eternal-God's long-range view.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at