Tim O’Reilly had a great post yesterday, “Surprises on the Bookshelves of CEOs” that also included quotes for entrepreneurs that he has collected over the years. Three great quotes that I hadn’t seen before that I found thought provoking were:

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Vaclav Havel

“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”
John Andrew Holmes

“History is a wave that moves through time slightly faster than we do.”
Kim Stanley Robinson

The Future Comes Up From Behind

This last one becomes clearer as one gets older. O’Reilly has used it in an earlier piece “Levels of the Game: The Hierarchy of Web 2.0 Apps” where he also discussed James Fallow’s experiment in using only Web 2.0 apps for a week. It reminds me of a longer passage from the afterward to the tenth anniversary edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

When you think about it, that’s a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

Ten years after the publication of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the Ancient Greek perspective is certainly appropriate. What sort of future is coming up from behind I don’t really know. But the past, spread out ahead, dominates everything in sight.

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