While reading Daniel Gilbert’s excellent Stumbling on Happiness over the weekend, I stumbled upon these lovely lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which Gilbert chose to include at the start of Chapter 6:
Thy letters have transported me beyond
This ignorant present, and I feel now
The future in the instant.
I love how much energy and action is wrapped up in just these few short lines. If you’re familiar with the play, you may already know what news has arrived. But even if you’ve never seen Macbeth, you get the feeling that something heavy has transpired and you can appreciate the intimacy of the relationship between writer and recipient. This excerpt also reminds me of how in some ways the future is the most tangible of all temporal states. The past is always receding behind us and the present rarely lasts long enough to stop and admire it. But the unknown future is always unfurling before us. There’s always more time. At least, it seems that way, doesn’t it?
Gilbert’s book, by the way, is full of musings, research, and explorations of how the human mind deals with ideas of past, present, and future. If you’re thinking of writing a few letters to your future self anytime soon, Stumbling on Happiness is as thorough and detailed of a how-to guide as you’ll ever find.