Thoughts of younger years bring to mind a High School course in Euclidian Geometry; a course that may have proven to be the most impactful in later years. The study and accumulated ephemeral knowledge of angles, planes and concentric circles, were valuable to a degree, but far less valuable that the taught discipline inherent in the experience of the subject.
A set of facts (a “given”) was presented, in each instance (the “theorem”) from which, by logical steps, the desired principle was finally deduced. What was eternally significant, and impressionable, was the instructed process of orderly reasoning to a conclusion, from a fixed set of facts. The subject of Euclidian Geometry instructed the inestimable (lifetime) practice of the application of reason to the solution of problems.
We often reminisce about past events, most especially, our choices and decisions, to act upon, or refrain, from doing something which may have turned out to have considerable significance. Any regrets or self-praise, in such instances, is not only useless, but illogical, and amounts to ex- post facto rationalization. We often make the fundamental, albeit common, error in the comparison of our personal choices, with the choices of others, perhaps erroneously ascribing to ourselves, comparative credit or error. In addition to being simply useless, these inclinations are totally senseless and irrational.
There may exist, a human tendency to extrapolate presently existing circumstances with the past. This phenomenon, obliges us to responsibly critical concerning the popularly accepted nostrum, “those who ignore the past, are likely to repeat it.” With the humblest and the sincerest of apologies to George Santayana, the popular aphorism assumes that the comparative circumstances are factually identical (inclusive of the protagonists). In an individual matter, the reverential adherence to such urging might have disastrous results. Reason and experience teach that, regardless of source, all aphoristic expressions, even this one, need a measure of additional and nuanced scrutiny.
Recently, we were advised of a mutual friend who, against professional advice concerning the manifestly dire financial condition of a certain public company, nevertheless, recklessly and heedlessly, invested a substantial sum of money in the purchase of many shares of its stock. As advised, his heedless stock purchase turned out, unexpectedly, and against all prognostications of the experts, to be a very lucrative one. There are many people who would consider that investor to be enterprising and intelligent; we, emphatically, do not at all, agree.
The rational wisdom of any choice, we insist, may only be properly judged as of the time that it is made, and under the contemporary facts and circumstances in existence at such time; certainly not at the time of its (possibly surprising) outcome. The soundness of any choice should empirically be seen, fairly and reasonably, solely in the context of the existing facts (the “geometric given”) at the time of its determination. Granting the possibility that “wise” choices may ultimately, have a disastrous result, in matters of judgment, mankind will, with rare exception, eternally benefit from the consistent exercise of applicable and contemporary reason.