quotes Living life backwards

09 January 2023
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Updated 09 January 2023

Living life backwards

When we are young, our eyes are firmly directed toward the future and its opportunities. When we are old, we reflect on the past, our memories, and what we learned.

In my case, I fully lived the opportunities and challenges of my youth, exploring ideologies and ways to improve the world I was a part of.

I have also savored the wisdom one extracts from experience when getting older in age, allowing me to develop my own unique perspective on the world and my experiences.

As with every life journey, mine has been filled with challenges, successes, and disappointments. While we learn the most from our failures, a sense of equilibrium emerges from our youth and adulthood experiences, which complement each other and improve with age.

Soren Kierkegaard reminds us that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

As we age, we want the best for our children; we want to think that we have helped open doors and opportunities for the next generation.

We want our experience to be useful to the young, to help guide them and perhaps avoid some of the mistakes we made.

Elders have played this role in every human society, and youth have always, just as I once did, played their role of challenging the ideas held by their elders.

Humanity is all about connection and emotion, and no amount of technology will change that.

This experience has changed in a way with the internet and communications technology, as youth now have access to more information, arguments, and statistics to contradict the ideas of their elders, dampening their influence.

As a result, today’s youth are not as innocent as we were, they are much more prepared, but I feel they are also losing out on how important empathy, care, and emotion are in deciphering the world we live in, and in trying to improve it.

The stride of history and the pace of change in society have greatly accelerated over this past century, with innovations and new technologies moving our societies forward and generating serious new challenges for us to cope with.

The answers, however, do not lie in technology, and I wonder whether our youth have become too tied to technology for their answers, losing that most essential human element, perspective, and rumination that allow us to integrate the multiple technological, historical, and emotional facets of human action.

Indeed, the world is not just made up of youth on one side and elders on the other. In fact, many of those already considered elders today were born in the technological age and share a similar belief in the power of technology as our youth.

My age bracket is more advanced. We experienced the world without all this technology, and we know that the most important things take time, whether it be a tree bearing fruit, our relationships with others, or gaining the understanding and perspective necessary to tackle the challenges of our day effectively.

We have witnessed this shift in human life, the increasing influence of algorithms and artificial intelligence, and I believe we still have something to contribute to remind younger generations of the importance of time, care, and humility.

Reminding youth of the joy of seeing an apricot tree we planted grow and eventually bear fruit is a very particular and important form of satisfaction.

One is not truly old until one starts to forget. The ability to remember and to reminisce is a great blessing, as our ideas continually mature and sometimes provide sparkling shooting stars of wisdom.

Being old can be very satisfying and even entertaining; it gains the most meaning when we are able to contribute something to the young, to help them to think differently from others, and to think for themselves.

Humanity is all about connection and emotion, and no amount of technology will change that.

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981, and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.