A rabbi writes about a YouTube video that went viral called, “A Conversation With My Twelve Year Old Self.” Jeremiah McDonald was a clever twelve year-old boy who made a videotape of himself to be viewed one day in the future, by none other than himself. Now, after twenty years, a grown up 32 year-old Jeremiah pulls out the tape and has a dialogue with himself!
Naturally, young Jeremiah has many questions to ask himself in the future. Like, “how are things? And is Molly the dog still alive? But it’s when older Jeremiah takes over the questioning that the conversation takes a serious turn. “Now what were you doing before you made this video, he asks?” Young Jeremiah proudly holds up a large color poster size illustration of Roy the Rabbit, one of a cast of characters that he loved to draw. Dismay washes over the 32 year-old Jeremiah’s face, as he is suddenly reminded of his passion for drawing and his intense ambition to be an animator, that somehow fell by the wayside as he grew into manhood. At another point, the back and forth banter grows tense, and teenage Jeremiah shoots back, “What are you blaming me for?” “Because I’m the result of every decision you’ve made,” broods Jeremiah senior.
Not many of us leave tapes like this for ourselves, but as we look back over the last many years, there are a few pieces of advice we wish we could have given to ourselves. In the span of 10 or 20 years, we change a great deal, sometimes without even realizing it until we look back and see how far we’ve come. Our sensibilities, our tastes, our interests, our abilities are probably different than they were a decade or two ago.
But as much as we’ve changed over the past twenty years, we are likely to change just as much in the next 10 or twenty years, Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, says, what we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same things about us. He calls this the ‘end of history illusion‘, meaning that we we think we’ve stopped changing and will pretty much be the same person in 10 years as we are right now. He found that most of us play down the possibility of future change and at every age we think we are having the last laugh, and at every age we are wrong.
Well, says the rabbi, we can’t change the past, but we definitely can change the future. So the question is, if we were making a video for our future selves, what would we say?
To recapture dormant and discarded dreams, to create new ones, to live, in the words of Pastor Rick Warren, ” A PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE.” This was the lesson that 32 year-old Jeremiah McDonald was shocked to learn from his 12 year-old self, when he rediscovered a passionate, playful, artistic’ hopeful kid.
We are asked to allow the 12 year-old within us speak to our present and future selves, to let the dialogue run free and see what our past present and future have to say to one another. And, knowing that we will change, what do we want that change in ourselves to look like?
As the rabbi said, “WE DON’T HAVE TO LOVE LIFE BECAUSE IT IS PERFECT. WE LOVE LIFE FOR WHAT IT IS, AND FOR THE DREAM OF WHAT IT ONE DAY COULD BE.’
Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can follow him on Facebook.
Image courtesy of Drew Colins.