Thinking in the Future Tense
by Jennifer James


               Kris Greene  student at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth

ennifer James,in her book Thinking in the Future Tense, 
combines wit, practicality, and most importantly a comprehensible 
vocabulary to convey the inevitable dilemmas resulting from the 
immediate onset of the future; and here's the real kicker: she 
offers realistic solutions.  She makes many references to the 
importance of a sense of humor when dealing with tough situations 
that grow in complexity as time goes on.  Humor allows one to relax 
and reconsider his/her circumstances.  In essence, humor provides a 
finer perspective on life, which James insists is one of the most 
essential qualities for succeeding in the future.  This is the 
reason that humor plays such an important role in society; it is 
an outlet, as well as a useful attribute.

I am reminded of Jimmy Buffet's lyrics, "it's those changes in 
latitude, changes in attitude, nothing remains quite the same, with 
all of our running, and all of our cunning, if we couldn't laugh we 
would all go insane."  

Cunning: It is frustrating to think that the intellect one acquires 
today will become as obsolete as a two-year-old computer tomorrow.  
That is not to say that such acquired facts become useless; instead, 
they are simply not enough.  Fifteen years ago, an undergraduate 
degree from a university was considered prestigious, and would most 
likely land the individual in a secure job after graduation.  Today, 
it seems that the undergraduate degree is simply a tool to get into 
graduate school, where one will earn the degree that really matters.  
The fact remains that the kid I baby-sit tomorrow is going to know more 
about technology at my age than I do now.  Especially when one considers 
that the Internet has become an essential school component, even at the 
primary level.  James goes so far as to suggest elementary classes in 
investing.  

Running: People can always try to resist change, but in doing so, 
they willingly sacrifice many modern day conveniences.  Think of the 
job seeker who refuses to waste his/her money on call waiting, or even 
an answering machine.  The flashing messages light and those beeps that 
interrupt a conversation may be annoying, but without them you are 
immediately placed at a disadvantage in the work field.  I don't even 
need to mention the development of beepers and cell phones, do I?  James 
mentions the barriers to change-nostalgia being one of them.  To make 
reference to a Springsteen song, I'm sure there are people who still sit 
down with a beer talking about their "glory days"; it's just that if they 
are any sort of successful adults, they leave such memories behind at the 
bar, and hop into their Ford Explorer to call the family from a cell phone 
to announce when they will be home.  

Because it is practical, James' advice for dealing with the future is 
perfectly viable.  She does not propose that we attempt to slow 
advancements; instead, she advises us to re-evaluate our personal 
relationships and ourselves.  She advocates open and honest communication, 
along with a positive attitude and a sense of humor.  All of these 
qualities concur with my idea of a great individual.  In fact, her 
optimism serves as a pleasant deviation from the normal outlook on the 
unknown.  When we experience feelings of misgiving, a sense of loss, or 
anxiety, James consoles us with the following words: "... we can at 
least take comfort in knowing that we are normal."  Well, thank you.  
Oh yeah, and as for Buffet, I would definitely be off my rocker if I 
couldn't burst into laughter now and then.