I think I’ve figured out what the most useless word is in the English language. It’s a short word. It only has two letters, only one more than the minimum. At least it’s not a waste of a lot of letters. The word is “If”.
I spend a lot of time and energy on this word. I think about the past and if this had happened or if that had not happened. I worry about the future and if this will happen or not happen. Pondering the hypothetical world that never was and the world that probably won’t ever be, takes up a lot of my brain capacity.
I wonder what the world would be like if we had discovered Shayna’s heart condition. The cardiologist says we probably wouldn’t have treated it. As it is, she had two surgeries. We did everything we could possibly do. Those surgeries were not for the condition that they think probably led to her death. What if they had done a more detailed imaging of her heart? Would they have discovered it? Would we have been able to save her? Would we have at least had a clue that she might have an event that would take her life? I wonder what if we had known she was going to die. Would we have done anything different? Would we have spent more time together? Would we have taken more vacations? Would we have treated her better? If, if, if…
The fact is the past is the past. What is is what necessarily has to be. There is no going back and changing it. There is no alternative past to visit. And we don’t really know if (there’s that word again) a different past is even possible. What we do know is the past is basically set in concrete. It can’t be changed. We don’t even know if it could ever have been changed, when it was still the future. So, the pondering of “if” is a complete waste of time that can only lead to regret, sadness, and guilt.
The other problem this if thinking raises is worry about the future. “What if this happens?” occupies the part of my time when I’m not trying to change the past. I worry about all kinds of things that have never happened, but I’ve spend decades worrying about them anyway, just in case. Maybe the future is just as set in stone as the past appears to be. We think that we make decisions every moment and that sets us off on a different path. The future is wide open. There are many possible futures. The future can be anything. But, there is only one future, only one path, we will actually take. Just because we don’t know it doesn’t mean it’s not already just as concrete as the past. While planning for the future is a necessary part of being a human being, worrying about the future is a total waste of our time and energy.
This idea has been rattling around in my head for the past couple of days. I’ve been meditating on it and trying to figure out how to eliminate some of this if thinking from my life. The more I can accept the past and not spend time thinking about changing it, the happier I’ll be in the present. The more I can plan for the future rather than worry about the future, the less stressed I’ll be in the present. The ideal would be to come to a point where I totally accept the past, just as it is. And, I face the future, just as it will be. But, by then, I’d be a fully enlightened being and would probably just ascend to heaven in a cloud.
Yesterday, Mikhail Gorbachev was quoted as saying the world seems to be preparing for war. Trump has prompted China to say they need to build more nukes. Trump has fired the first round of shots in a trade war with Mexico by threatening tariffs on their goods. The doomsday clock has inched closer to midnight. The EIU has warned the US is no longer a full democracy. Ted Cruz told a little girl a few years ago “The world is on fire.” and she cried. Today, many are crying. But, as I pondered the “If” thing, I was reminded of possibly my favorite song by an old group, “Bread”. The song is titled simply “If”. It’s a short song, just two and a half minutes long. My favorite part is the last line. No matter what the world throws at me, it can’t destroy my soul.
If a man could be two places at one time,
I’d be with you.
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way.
If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I’d spend the end with you.
And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out,
Then you and I would simply fly away