A Longitudinal Family of Mankind

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I’ve always loved that the Wall Street Journal published the same excellent editorial every Christmas. So, I have decided to follow their example and publish my own editorial in every December issue of FMP. I think it’s important to take a long view of the world occasionally, and the holiday season seems a good time to do it.

We are one longitudinal family of mankind.

If you could go back in time a thousand years, you would find individuals who reminded you very much of your current friends and companions. The same is true of people who will live a thousand years from now: Some of them will be nearly identical to the people you love now.

You would love and care for those people the same as you do their counterparts here and now.

Please understand this: Those in the future, who would be our beloveds, can only advance in the same way that we have: By the benefaction of their predecessors.

Can you imagine how long it took for completely ignorant men to learn the rules of metallurgy? Or engineering? Or a hundred other things we can barely imagine being without? Our lives are advanced only because they created new ways of living and passed them down to us. Hundreds of generations of men and women lived through dark times, fighting toward whatever bits of light they could find, opposed by other men nearly the entire way, to bring us where we are now.

Some day our generation will also be gone, and we will have played — whether we’ve understood it or not — the crucial role of transmitting civilization to following generations. What do we want them to be like? How would we like them to live?

Numberless men and women have struggled toward the future and spent all they had to bring us here. We owe them something. It may be that they no longer care, but their gifts to us will cease to exist, unless we continue to pass them along.

We make them matter, and they deserve to matter.

We stand now at the threshold of the stars, but we have been immobilized by self-serving structures designed to control and reap from every human action. We must get past them if we are to move forward.

Foolishness and waste bid us to forget the future; to chase status instead of goodness, conquest rather than production, and thrill rather than substance. A thousand self-serving voices call us aside, ever-grasping at our assets and our energy.

We must turn away from it all.

We owe this to the people of the past. We owe it to the people of the future. We owe it to ourselves.

What happens next is up to you. It’s not up to leaders or bosses. It’s up to you.

The truth is this: The consequences of your failures are inescapable and the consequences of your good deeds are inescapable. Regardless of your acknowledgement, your descendents will live or die by them.

What you are and what you do matters a very great deal.

Engage your will. Act. Awake.

Paul Rosenberg [send him mail] is the author of Free-Man's Perspective, a monthly dispatch on the important things of life: virtue, courage, science, art, history, philosophy and personal growth. This was excerpted that newsletter.

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