The Handicap Of Hindsight

The Divine L recently shared a jaw-dropping bit of info with me. Well, I thought it was jaw-dropping...

Apparently, in 1890, the young Wintson Churchill was saved from drowning by another, far less privileged lad. To thank him for his bravery, Churchill's parents decided to help the youngster fulfil his ambition of becoming a doctor. In short, they paid for his education. The lad's name was Alexander Fleming: the man who later discovered penicillin.

Fifty-three years later, Winston Churchill contracted pneumonia and would quite likely have died... had it not been for the intervention of none other than Dr Fleming. According to the story, Churchill proclaimed, "Rarely has one man owed his life twice to the same rescuer."

I thought this extraordinary story paired up quite well with an article I read last week about Dubai's property market. It quoted a woman as saying that when she moved to the city ten years ago, there was hardly anything there: no modern roads, no skyscrapers, no shopping malls etc. Let's put aside for the moment the implications of the equation "no skyscrapers = nothing". What I found more worrying is that the woman was just plain wrong. When I left Dubai in 1995 the place was most certainly not devoid of tall buildings. In fact, there wasn't very much of which it was devoid, materialistically speaking.

I guess what I like about these two anecdotes is their suggestion that sometimes, if we take a leap of faith - perhaps without even realising we're doing so - we can 'see' into the future with far greater clarity than if we look into the past. The Churchills couldn't have had the slightest clue that their actions would help create one of the key figures in the world of medicine. But somewehere in their decision to act as patrons was some modicum of hope, and surely that is the clearest 'seer' of the future.

The woman quoted in the article was looking into the past from a standpoint of what she considered to be irrefutable facts, but she got her 'seeing' entirely wrong. She saw the past through her own selfish appraisal of the present, whereas the Churchills saw the future through a selfless engagement with the present. And although they didn't know it at the time, what they saw was 'right'.

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