I Can See Firsthand 200 Years

I met my grandfather when I was four years old. He played his accordion for me. My grandfather was short, maybe 5’6″ inches. He was born before 1870. He died in 1950, being several years over eighty.

My latest grandson has just had his first birthday. If things work as they probably will, he will live to be somewhere around ninety years of age.

As I write this, if I include myself, grandfather, and grandson, I will have had direct personal experience with people who will have spanned more than 230 years of time. Here are a few observations.


1. My grandson’s disposition reminds me of my grandfather’s disposition. And my disposition is similar to theirs. Human dispositions don’t vary much from century to century. We are no more human today than humans were in the past, and people in the future will be pretty much like we are today. Hence, if you work at understanding people right now, you will pretty much know how people were in the past, and how people will be in the future.

2. Outside of being the world’s first democracy, America’s soul is bound up in economic opportunity. My grandfather came to America as a child. His family migrated to America to be a part of a new dream. They engaged in religious freedom, and they prospered financially as my grandfather and grandmother finally got ahead by starting their own small dairy business.

My mother was a sole proprietor, I started my own business, two of my daughters are engaged in a startup, my two sons have started businesses, my nephew has started a business. What are the odds my grandson will end up starting a business? Pretty high I’d say.

Why? It’s probably tied to two things. Our family culture has something to do with it. And being in America has something to do with it. For two centuries people in our family have started small businesses in America. In ancient terms, as a family we would be considered part of the merchant class with a definite entrepreneurial bent. We’re not aristocrats; we’re business people, who are fortunate enough to live in America. Both in the past and in the future, we will continue to create jobs, employ people, make things, service people’s needs, take risks, and come up with new ideas. We have been and will continue to be rewarded for our efforts.

America has been good to us that way, and more than likely will continue to be so in the future. This will have been going on for over 200 years by the time my grandson reaches old age. The family and the country fit well together.

3. Time collapses. As a small child I remember looking at twenty year old photos of my grandfather. They seemed old and granny. Today, fifty years plus later, I look at those same photos, and feel very close in time to my grandfather.

Likewise, my grandson will look at photos of me and my grandfather when he’s young and feel like we are both ancient history. But when he turns sixty, he’ll look back at how close in time he feels to both of us. That’ll be somewhere around 2070.

By that time 200 years will have passed, it’ll blow his mind that he can feel so closely connected to people spanning two hundred years.

4. The human mind continues to evolve. My mind operated differently at twenty years of age than it does at sixty plus years of age.

Now almost all I experience has a connectedness to the past and future. At twenty only “right now” existed. Today, “right now” exists along with a sense of being connected to the past and the future. I have a good sense of the past through my grandfather, and a good sense of the future through my grandson.

I Can See It

I’m looking at two hundred years up close. If the past has been good to us, more than likely the future will be pretty much the same. The best indicator of the future is the past. I can see both.