“If,” writes Sir Francis Younghusband, “we stand a two-foot rule on end and take it to represent the period which has elapsed since man first appeared, it will be only the top inch that will represent the distance of time since the dawn of civilization, and only the last eighth of an inch that will denote the period of European civilization.”

As far as scientists are able to judge, the earth is still in its infancy. In all probability the human race is to continue for a million years or so. Before us, therefore, stretches out a vast future, inconceivably more influential than the past.

There are two classes of minds. One is dominated by the past and the other by the future. Wherever you find two or more men gathered together you may witness the clash of these two types. There are conservatives and progressives, liberals and standpatters, orthodox and heretics, the adventurous and the safe; all of which amounts to saying that there are souls gripped by what is to be and souls gripped by what has been.

Both tendencies need the moderation of common sense. A certain conservatism is needed, because whatever good there is in the future must grow out of the past; civilization is a growing unit. And a certain progressiveness is needed, because without it the past would paralyze us with its dead head. Too much conservatism means stagnation; too much progressiveness means anarchy.

But it is the future-feeling that most needs to be developed. The past is but too strongly intrenched already in the consciousness of the world. It is from those million years to come that we should draw our inspiration.

Law is now, and always has been, but the accumulated wisdom of the past. It ought to grasp the future; there should be more legislation for what will be than from what has been.

Education is past-ridden. It should turn more toward taking as its norm the man yet to be than the man as he has been or is.

Morals that aim to make us conform to present or bygone social standards are irritating, but a morality drawn from what society will be can impassion us, and so develop us.

The cities of ancient times are imposing in their ruins, but I like best to wander the streets of those magnificent cities of the days to come, those dream-cities, where democracy expresses itself in beauty and the majesty of work is beyond all that war and kingcraft ever devised.

Even so with life itself. The greatest contribution of religion to human life is the gift of a sense of the future, of another life beyond this. Whether this be provable or no, the very presence of the notion of it in men’s minds lends them a dignity and a power nothing else could induce. If, as old age comes on, we have amassed only a past, a pile of memories and failures, then life moves slowly on to tragedy; but if there looms in the consciousness a feeling of a possible future the mind finds in it a veritable fountain of youth.

I make no bones of saying that I am, or want to be, a “futurist.”


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