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What really matters
Way at the back of the Amsterdam City Archives, there’s a small screening room. One hot August day, I found myself alone in the theater.
They were showing reel after reel of home movies from the 1930s—amateur footage that city residents had gifted the archives. There were shots from outdoor markets, scenes of people working, bustling city streets, and home life. Like in most home movies, nothing particularly historic or shocking was happening.
And yet a sense of dread crept up on me. Those children running and playing had no idea what was coming. They were unaware that war would break out in just a few years. It’s what makes those uneventful scenes of daily life so sinister and foreboding.
Then a thought occurred to me. What if I could relay a message to these people. What would I tell them? Would I urge them to prepare? Or to leave the city? Or would I choose to say this:
“Treasure the life you have today. Hard times are coming. Don’t lose sight of what you care about and what’s important to you.”
Last week I wrote about coming up with a wish list—things you want to do (or stop doing) by the end of the year. Those scenes of regular people from nearly a century ago remind me not to let those plans and goals seem more important than they are. After all, 80 years from now—and likely sooner—people will see many of our viewpoints and pursuits as dated, naive, oblivious, or some combination thereof.
Does that mean it doesn’t matter what you and I do?
Of course it matters.
And it matters that we decide what’s important to us—what’s worth working towards, spending our time on, devoting our lives to. But it can be good sometimes to realize that not much of what we work on has everlasting value. Very little will still be relevant, say, 80 years down the road.
Once that pressure’s off, it makes it easier to go big, but also to live in the here and now. It can put your day’s work in perspective and help you focus on your loved ones and the people around you.
And that’s perhaps the surest way to contribute something that endures.
Have a good week,
produced by the language girl