Santayana’s oft quoted line that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, has three corollaries:
1) The future never lives up to its hype. Those who spend their entire careers saving for and dreaming of retirement, rarely enjoy it. When people tell us that some bet is a sure thing, we must be dubious. As Monty Python says, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Yet we want to know what is coming next. I believe that this curiosity is healthy and should be encouraged. I also recognize that living without a plan just isn’t an option. Inner peace, or Shalom, depends upon leveraging our limited vision and hopes into a useful plan while avoiding needless anxiety.
2) Those who live in the present reap the ever diminishing fruits of their narrow focus. There are many couples who have missed the opportunity to have children because they were too focused on present circumstances. To paraphrase an Old Testament sage, those who spend their time reading the weather reports will never plant (Ecclesiastes 11:4). The present is where we sow the seeds of Shalom: by doing the things that our bodies need to stay healthy, by keeping current in our relationships and renewing our minds, and by constantly abiding in God. This organic definition of Shalom will make more sense as the book goes on. The soil of the present, however, may be a rough row to hoe because we have neglected to compost our past into nutritious fertilizer.
3) Those who live in the past are ignored. There is a long list of social institutions today that are losing members because their culture is too focused on the past. A popular book for church leaders carries the title, “Next year is not 1954.” As individuals, community groups, and nations, we often get stuck on circular highways, or roundabouts, that consume our energy, waste our days, and offer the same scenery lap after lap. The problem is, while we all can point to someone who is living in the past, no one believes that this applies to them. It is a subtle and great folly to judge ourselves successful by what we see the rear view mirror. As they say in the stock market, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” I would add, people who focus on the potholes they’ve passed, rarely see the road ahead. To quote George Santayana again, “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

Sample of material from Bill Kemp's latest book