“There is something that a Supreme Being who is all knowing, all powerful, all loving, eternally creative, and who is rightly related lacks, and that is… finitude.”

Many years ago (35 I think) I read a book on life and marriage that had one line I’ve never forgotten: It went something like, “Life is a planned obsolescence.”

That statement hit me hard, both with the truth of it, and the staggering ramifications of that truth. Having grown up in Northeast Ohio…

…near GM and other companies (including steel mills) that for a long time were very successful and employer of thousands. By the late 70’s, talk started about how USA built cars were not reliable and were needing repairs and replaced parts. Consequently, Americans started buying more and more Japanese cars. This eventually led to closing many or reduction of the US factories.

The irony was too rich… intended to keep more and more people employed the planned obsolescence strategy ended up devastating the exact industry they were utilizing.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride comes before the fall”. One translation: (empires, kingdoms, nations, families, individuals) with too much pride will “fall” from the position of overconfidence.

There are many examples of this throughout history. Egregious ones. I’ll just mention one: The Roman Empire. Historians point out that one of the things that led to their fall, was ironically, their success. The Romans were so potent as an army in their republic government that even moderately wealthy ones drank their wine from lead cups. No basic earthenware for them. And none of them drank more wine and other drinks than the emperors. It’s believed this practice brought on brain injuries, causing the emperors from Nero (who had Rome burnt) to Caligula (to name a few of his many craziness’s: invited his horse to drink wine with him at his table, made a father who had just watched his son killed by Caligula, sit with Caligula and drink wine, he also had a whole audience eaten alive because he was bored, and had his army attack a body of water.)

A Sifting I wrote a couple of months ago talked about confirmation blindness, which essentially determines you will only see the evidence you want to see. In other words, you are blinded by your success/limiting beliefs. Our brain deletes, distorts, and generalizes in order to identify the information we think will keep us safe, or get us in control, be right, or other payoffs which are important at some level. Often these motivations are not in our immediate awareness.

I have many personal examples of my confirmation biases. But I’m going to focus in on a pretty traumatic incident that happened about 3 weeks ago. The team and I had just finished eating when our team Captain announces to us all: “Hey! I’m going back into the conference room and do some walking lunges, sumo squats, planks, push-ups, and arm chair triceps’ dips.” Well, I work out pretty often and so of course I volunteered to go too. So we proceeded to go 4 conference room lengths of the walking lunges, 30 something sumo squats, 5 minutes of planks (one minute each) and then 30 push-ups and 30 triceps’ chair dips. All without a break in between sets. BIG mistake based on some pride on my part. In retrospect I suspect I was trying to keep up (or maybe look good) with these 20 something and early 30 something youngsters. I didn’t heed a couple of warning signs because of my previous successes.

So, why am I writing this? There are a few reasons. Firstly, becoming aware of your hidden motivations goes a long way in identifying why you make the choices you make and thereby making different choices becomes possible. Secondly, knowing you have confirmation bias can lead you be more open, curious, empathetic, and loving towards contrary views instead of reacting automatically. Thirdly, learning to ‘know what you don’t know’ can lead to one of the biggest life trajectory shifts you can make: from living in automatic to becoming intentional.

With all of these considerations, let’s circle back to planned obsolescence. A heightened awareness of the reality that a natural course of life is a downward spiral (e.g. that none of us will escape some manifestation of things wearing out), and that we are gifted in filtering things out that don’t meet our confirmation biases, can go a long way toward our humility. That could make us more open, more circumspect, more gracious, and more loving as we focus on what’s really important and on what legacy we want to leave behind. In large measure it is our finitude that can serve us in this way.

So, with all humility and somberness, make each day count towards what’s most important because we never know when our time is up.

Blessings,

Ennio