Good Monday so far. Broke-the-fast with Hudson and Mathews early at Arby’s. Dropped-off Collin at school. Back home for a little while before I headed here to the office. As I was leaving the house, I kissed Michelle, Elsa and Jude goodbye and wished them a good day. I also said to Elsa, “Have a good time at preschool today.” Elsa said, “I’m going to preschool today? What day is it?”
First, I love that 4-year-0lds have no real need to know which day it is. I’m a bit envious. Secondly, any of you who know Elsa’s fun-loving spirit are not surprised at her not knowing which day it is. But she then said, “What kind of day will tomorrow be?” When Elsa asks this question, she means which day will it be tomorrow. She’s not asking for the qualities that tomorrow will hold. She’ll decide the quality that tomorrow will hold based on which day you say it will be.
For instance, if you say, tomorrow will be Wednesday Elsa will be excited because preschool meets on Mondays and Wednesdays. She will pre-judge the quality that Wednesday will hold based on what she assumes about Wednesdays, which is that preschool equals fun and Wednesday equals preschool therefore Wednesday equals fun. Ah, the logic of a 4-year-old. She gives no consideation to the fact that preschool itself could hold good or bad qualities each time it meets or that variations could occur on any given Wednesday. Her notions are often pre-conceived.
But turning that lense on ourselves as older people, I think we can see the same, flawed logic at work in us . We pre-judge what quality a day will hold: “I hate Mondays.” We pre-judge what quality a commitment will hold: “I can’t believe I volunteered to do this.” We pre-judge what qualities our job will hold today: “I can’t work here another day!” We pre-judge our relationships: “I can’t believe I’m stuck with this person for the rest of my life!!”
We pre-judge constantly. In the study of logic and critical thought, we’d say you are ‘allowing the conclusion to interpret the data.’ To dumb that down, it means you’ve already decided how something is going to turn out so you’re going to see any of the preceeding situations or facts through the lense of your assumed conclusion. This kind of flawed thinking can ruin your day, your week and maybe even your life.
Virgil wrote about 2000 years ago in his epic poem, the Aeneid, “Let us die, and charge into the thick of the fight.” This is one of the first uses of a literary device called hysteron proteron, which means that the thing which occurs later is stated before the thing which will occur first. The literal translation is ‘latter before.’ Obviously, Virgil knew a ‘ charge into the thick of the fight’ must occur before the deaths in the fight but he states “Let us die” first because it is the most important part of the thought. He assumes death to be the conclusion and therefore uses it as motivation for the charge. Virgil’s conclusion interprets the situation before the situation ever occurs.
In a more modern way, we might use the cliché ‘you’re putting the cart before the horse.’ We know this to mean that the less important things are ruling over the more important things; the secondary concerns are giving direction to what should be our primary concerns.
We’re doing things out-of-order! There, that’s as plainly as I can put it.
Stop assuming your day is going to be worthless again. Stop assuming your life is going to be meaningless again today. Stop assuming your job is a thing empty of opportunity. Stop assuming you’re going to fight with your spouse or be annoyed by your kids. Stop letting your pre-judged conclusions ruin your day or your week or your life.
Start interpreting the facts and situations of your day as you come to them. This will give you the freedom and self-permission to skillfully make the most of everything you encounter. Your day still may not reach the conclusion you hope for but at least it will be engaging and thought-provoking. At least, you will have had the opportunity to enjoy the ‘charge into the thick of the fight’ instead re-living a brain-dead, non-involved slide into the death of each day.
So drag your horse around and hook him to the front of the cart where he belongs, lay your pre-judged conclusions aside and let’s engage each day.