March 17th, 2015 Posted by
Rabbi Daniel Lapin
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Tags: ancient jewish wisdom, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Thought Tools
In case you are contemplating a career change, I want to suggest becoming a ‘futurist’ (i.e. a secular prophet). It is not as hard as it may seem. You boldly announce provocative predictions. If they subsequently come to pass, you triumphantly proclaim your prescience. If they don’t, you make new predictions.
Consider one of the country’s most respected ‘futurists’, Professor Paul Ehrlich who teaches in the Biological Sciences department at one of America’s most illustrious universities, Stanford. In 1968 he wrote The Population Bomb which opened with this sentence-
“The battle to feed all of humanity is over.
In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death…”
Note that he didn’t say that overpopulation could become a problem one day. He didn’t say that feeding the world’s growing population could become a challenge. He said explicitly that during the 1970s hundreds of millions of people would starve to death. As we all know, that didn’t happen. He wasn’t even close. He also predicted that by 1980 all animal life in the planet’s oceans would be extinct and that by the year 2000, England will have ceased to exist. He is still a highly paid and respected professor at Stanford. Would you want this man teaching biological science to your child in exchange for your tuition payment of $60,000?
Writing Future Shock in 1970, Alvin Toffler predicted underwater cities, the doubling of the planet’s population in ten years, and the proliferation of wear-once-and-throw-away clothing made of paper. However, he also predicted the growing popularity of home-schooling and the decline in manufacturing jobs so his score is much better than that of Ehrlich. Nonetheless, the score is irrelevant, go ahead and become a ‘futurist’. You have nothing to lose. In fact, with the helpful tip I am going to provide you, your score will easily exceed that of the two ‘futurists’ I have written about above.
That said, it is important to distinguish between ‘futurists’ and professionals who know their own fields so well that they can spot the gentle ripples that herald approaching events.
Fifty years ago, in April 1965, Gordon Moore predicted home computers, electronic wrist watches, and portable telephones. All these and more would become possible, he argued, because the number of components that were being crammed onto integrated circuits or ‘chips’ was going to double every couple of years. Now, Gordon Moore was not a professional prognosticator. No, he was not a ‘futurist’ he was an entrepreneur. He was the co-founder of Intel, perhaps the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer. And all his predictions have indeed come true because he didn’t try and predict the weather or social demographics. He confined his vision to the process and consequence of raising the value of sand (silicon dioxide) by melting it and blending it with other elements. In other words, manufacturing semiconductors.
In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for sand is CHoL. Exactly the same word also means non-holy, or without God.
If you’re a regular Thought Tool reader, you know by now that uniquely in Hebrew, if one word has two meanings, the deep reality of that word can only be fully comprehended by somehow blending the two meanings.
So, we should explore why CHoL means both secular and sand. Fortunately we possess a clue in that the Hebrew word for rock, TZUR usually means God. Here follows one of the more than twenty-five examples of this just in the Book of Psalms.
The Lord is my rock….
Just like God, an unshakable, immovable, reliable mass upon which you can even build a skyscraper is a rock. The quality of sand is the opposite. Sand is always blowing around in the wind. It is without solid substance and cannot be built upon or relied upon, exactly the qualities of secularism. Secular fads blow in the wind; it would be sheer folly to build anything upon any secular fad.
This makes it far easier to understand the verse:
The start of all wisdom is fear of the Lord….
Trying to understand how the world really works while remaining sublimely oblivious to something as central and as important as God is impossible. For a ‘futurist’ to try predictions without any awareness of God and the spiritual dimension is as far-fetched as for a baker to try making a cake without any awareness of ovens and how they work.
So if you want to become a futurist, albeit one with a slightly better track record than Ehrlich and Toffler, keep God and spirituality in mind. I’m sure you’ve read about how the so-called Millennials, people in their thirties who came of age at the turn of the century, have unusual employment expectations. Unlike their parents’ generation, they are driven less by money and more by other more spiritual considerations such as meaning and purpose in the world. Neither we nor the world in which we live and function are entirely material and physical. The spiritual dimension is real. You need to understand it even if for no other reason than the majority of the people with whom you interact, try to live in harmony with God and His spiritual realities.
Second and more importantly, try and practice your futurism in an area you know well. When my expert German mechanic tell me that my car’s water pump is going to die within the next few hundred miles, he is invariably correct. Occasionally he tells me who will win the next election. In this he invariably turns out to be wrong.
Perhaps my most effective resource for absorbing the relevance and impact of the spiritual side of life is my book Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language. I would enjoy knowing that you have this in your library and are able to apply its lessons to the many family and business circumstances in which you need to peer into the future a bit.
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