Our Thankless Sacrifices

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of the Shoulders of Giants newsletter.

4 Ideas (in 3 minutes)

👨‍🏫 Topic: What makes our future selves worthy of present sacrifices?

📸 Visuals: Toni Hamel on our weird relationship with nature

🔍 Quote: Soren Kiekergaard on understanding life

📜 Passage: Jane Harrison on not wanting to be young again

Our Thankless Sacrifices

I’m pretty confident I’ll be alive by the end of the year.

It’s bittersweet.

Sweet, because life is amazing. Bitter because I can’t put everything into enjoying life right now. I have to make sure future me has a good time too.

But future me is a spoiled, ungrateful brat who can’t do anything for himself. And yet, I love him to death.

Or at least I act like it.

I spend hours of my day working so he can hopefully live worry-free. I’ve invested thousands of dollars into education, hoping he’ll use it. I don’t eat tasty junk food hoping he’ll be grateful for a healthy body.

Hope is the key word here.

The sacrifices I make are a gamble. Since I don’t know what future me is like, I make a bet assuming he’s just like me.

But of course, he isn’t. Who I am now isn’t my final form.

New experiences bring new perspectives that change what I care about. Then all of a sudden, my sacrifices become regrets.

Daniel Gilbert put it perfectly, “We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they’ll like, and they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that.”

Our future selves aren’t reliable enough for all the sacrifices we make. We cater too much to them.

We’ll make ourselves miserable for a shot at making the future perfect.

We’re like the guy who just won $1,000 at the casino but won’t leave because he tastes a thousand more.

Except instead of money, it’s time spent being happy.

Being miserable is only worth it if it’s for survival. We’ll never regret a roof over our heads or having food in the fridge.

Any other sacrifice should be a joy along the way.

Why spend years invested in something you don’t love to end up with something you don’t need?

We might as well guarantee one of our “selves” has a good time, right?

I don’t want to spend my life paying it forward. What am I planting all these seeds for if I never get to taste the fruit?

Featured Visuals

Ikebana II by Toni Hamel
The Heist by Toni Hamel
Expectations by Toni Hamel

Featured Quote

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.

—Soren Kierkegaard

Featured Passage

People ask: “Would you or would you not like to be young again?” Of course, it is really one of those foolish questions that never should be asked, because they are impossible. You cannot be — you that are — young again. You cannot unroll that snowball which is you: there is no “you” except your life — lived.

But apart from that, when you rise from what somebody calls “the banquet of life,” flushed with the wine of life, can you want to sit down again? When you have climbed the hill, and the view is just breaking, do you want to reclimb it? A thousand times no! Anyone who honestly wants to be young again has never lived, only imagined, only masqueraded. Of course, if you never eat, you keep your appetite for dinner.

—Jane Ellen Harrison