Have you noticed? Some people have the uncanny ability to see so far into tomorrow, you feel like you're operating in the shadows of yesterday. While you and I are evaluating where we've been, those forward-thinking people are forever exploring where we're going. Instead of reacting, they're on the offense . . . probing, innovating, analyzing, and warning—always warning. While we search for ways to settle in and find comfort on our sofa-like surroundings, they are confronting the consequences of reality, facing the music before we even realize the prelude has begun.
Prophets, I suppose we could call them . . . seers who frown while others yawn . . . restless, troubled, contemplative souls. They're not unlike the characters in a thought-jabbing cartoon published years ago. The whole message is contained in a single frame as the figures of a man and a woman are falling upside down through space.
"Gertrude," says the man, "we can't go on living like this!"
Those who slumber in the sleepy, warm twilight of sundown, finding a great deal of security in the mediocrity and predictability of sameness, cannot bring themselves to see either potential danger or possible tragedy. But those who see their world adrift, moving all too rapidly toward a bleak and disastrous dawn, shout across the chasm of complacency, "We can't go on living like this!"
Perhaps they are not upside down after all. They just seem that way. Thinking ahead keeps them topsy-turvy in their heads. While chatty, laughing tourists are taking snapshots of the lowlands with rose-colored filters, those lean, tough-minded climbers have scaled the rugged peaks. It gives them a stark view of what's ahead. Tomorrow's storm keeps them from enjoying today's lull. They're hard to live with, sometimes impossible to understand.
Robert Greenleaf, in his classic book Servant Leadership, recalls a story which grew out of Beethoven's composition, the C# Minor Quartet, Opus 131. When first played in the composer's lifetime, it appeared to be unlike anything the master had ever written before. "Ludwig," a friend asked, "what has happened? We don't understand you anymore." It is reported that Beethoven, with a sigh, replied, "I have said all that I have to say to my contemporaries; now I am speaking to the future."
If you are one of those seers, a tomorrow-thinker in a world of yesterday-dwellers, take heart. Realize that you must be true to yourself. While you may not be applauded for your warnings, you will be rewarded for your efforts. Just be patient with those who lack your zest and zeal. Say your piece, make your contribution, shout, if you must . . . but keep in mind that prophets were seldom heeded, rarely thanked, and never popular.
We'll talk more about this topic tomorrow.
Are you a tomorrow-thinker? Say the truth in love—even if it’s unheeded.