Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts, in addition to a new senator, ushered in a wave of opinions among political analysts that the death of the Republican Party may not have occurred in November 2008 and that the Democratic Party is now in big trouble. These are the same analysts in many cases who drew the opposite conclusion a little more than a year ago. I’m sure the next election, regardless of the results, will generate a new round of contradictory thoughts.
Several months ago, I was talking with a colleague who told me his city was in good financial condition and did not anticipate any serious financial challenges in the near future. A recent conversation sounded much different as my friend’s jurisdiction makes significant budget cuts.
The common thread between these two incidents is the simple and obvious truth that what is true today may not be tomorrow. The tragedy in Haiti is another reminder of how quickly things can change. Knowing the volatility of our world should give us some guidance about how to best adapt to changing circumstances, although the lesson seems to be lost on the popular media. In fairness, I have to confess that I’m usually guilty of living my life as if few things will ever change much.
I think I’m much better at looking toward the future at work than I am at home. I suppose anyone who works for or lives in the city should hope so. I try to strike a balance between planning for things that are likely to happen and responding to things that are happening. Ignoring either in city management can be a fatal flaw. I’m also careful about reacting to events and assuming they are portents of doom or omens of good fortune.
It’s always dangerous to extrapolate from one’s own experiences, but I feel confident in saying that good things and bad things happen both because of things we do and regardless of what we do. The lesson is not that we should simply resign ourselves to fate. Rather, I think we make plans and preparations knowing some of our work will be valuable for reasons beyond our intentions. My wife and I have a number of five-gallon cans of prehistoric wheat that were given to us years ago to become part of our emergency food supply. I’ve lugged these cans all over the state and once tried to dispose of them under the not implausible theory they would never be used and might kill us if they were. My wife continues to assure me that wheat found in the pyramids can still be ground into flour and used for food. The value we receive from the wheat may never take the form of bread. We will, or at least my wife will, however, have the satisfaction of believing we are prepared for an extended food shortage.
Tomorrow is another day, in the words of Scarlett O’Hara (young people will need to look this one up on-line), and our best preparation for the changes that might occur is the alignment of our attitudes with the idea we may need to adapt. Today’s events are not irrelevant, but they are a limited guide to tomorrow.