My daughter and I went fishing this afternoon. Lest I mislead, we are not pros. Novice would be a flattering designation. We have a our rods, reels and tackle. The lake was just fine. The fish weren’t biting. The sun beat down. And the row boat got us there.
Only row boats were available at the public facility and that was about our speed. Of course, I was the rower. As we moved from place to place, observing any form of wildlife except fish – herons, hawks, snakes – something suddenly occurred to me: In a rowboat, if you’re the rower, the only way you get anywhere is backwards. You literally row with your back to your destination. In terms of time it takes on a different shade of meaning. In a rowboat you move into the future while looking at the past. That’s not bad, especially for Memorial Day.
Rowing into the future requires a back to the wind, not knowing what’s coming other than a general direction. The most helpful coordinates are the ones we already passed by, those sitting on some distant shore of what’s already been. That centers us somehow. It doesn’t provide all the answers because some of those live only in the future and are never provided in past tense. Rowing backwards keeps us reading the way things have been as an aid to understanding what will be. It’s not always a one-to-one correspondence, of course, but very often it’s close enough.
A couple of things help rowing backwards. Since good navigation has to do with comparing the future with the past, you can’t only look backwards. Some people do that – only look backwards – and it generally doesn’t work.
The first way to accomplish that is to keep glancing over your shoulder. What you’re doing is comparing your destination with where you’ve been already.
But the second thing is to include an on-board companion, one who is not rowing backwards like you are, but rather facing forward. Their observations become another helpful measure of direction. The perceptions of another provide a different point of view. Together they make some magic.
Backwards into the future; not a bad way to travel, fish or no fish.