Thursday, August 13, 2009

We, the prophets

I gave an award-winning speech to a Toastmasters Club on Tuesday, which I’d like to share with you.

What is the general image one conjures up in one’s mind when one hears the word “prophet?” Isn’t it an image of someone who can foretell the future? Someone who has knowledge of the future? Yes, it is.

Wouldn’t it be something to have someone who can accurately foretell what it would be like next month or next year? But, I don’t need a month or a year; I need only 10 seconds. Ten seconds! With knowledge of the next 10 seconds I will be able to clear out any casino that I can lay my hands on.

But, it doesn’t work that way. I want to tell you a few stories.

Hypothetically, if I want to right a wrong and do it in court on my own, I would read up on the law, read other cases that are similar to mine and make sure that my speech to the judge would be well rehearsed, right? Let’s assume that I casually mention that to a lawyer friend who listens to what I want to do and says, “You’ll lose.” So, I went to court and lost. I asked my friend, “How did you know?”

Let’s say you see a child play with matches and you say, “Put down those matches, you’ll get burnt.” The child continues to play with the matches and soon enough he got burnt. He asks you, “How did you know?”

My daughter is a Cordon Blue pastry chef and when I try to mock up something in the kitchen, she is quick to tell me that I can’t do this or that. “Why not?” I’d ask. “Because it will taste like leather.” I continue, not heeding her warning, and my creation tastes like leather. I ask her, “How did you know?”

What is the major difference between our general perception of a prophet and the stories that I just told you? The cause and effect have been switched around. Our general perception of a prophet is that knowledge lies in the future and prophecy is in the present. Reality tells us that knowledge lies in the here and now and prophecy lies in the future.

In these stories my lawyer friend prophesied when he said that I’ll lose my case. You prophesied to the child about getting hurt. My daughter prophesied to me that my cooking efforts would fail. Or, to put it in the language of our contemporary perception of prophets, they all foretold the future, which they couldn’t have done unless they had intimate knowledge of the subject matter.

In the case of my lawyer friend, there were two conflicting prophecies, right? I mean I also made a prophecy, that I would win. So confident was I about my foretelling that I invested a lot of time and effort in the initiative. My friend had a much higher level of knowledge and could instantly render a much more accurate prophecy than I could.

What does this mean? It means that the more knowledge we have about something in the present, the future about that something will unfold accordingly.

If you flew to New York from Los Angeles, the captain usually announces over the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard our flight to New York. We are climbing to 35,000 feet, our cruising altitude, and our flight time would be five hours and 50 minutes.” What did the captain do here? He prophesied, foretold the future, based upon his experience and knowledge. Or, his wisdom.

I want to inspire you today to rather expand your knowledge and apply it productively to unfold the future than looking for some mystical revelation.

We, the prophets, are the people who make things happen.


  1. I've read in a number of places now about an Ancient Greek sense of time that had our backs to the future with the immediate past receding away from our eyes.....

  2. Hi Nico,
    Well what more is there to say? I think you have just explained our successes and failures. Well done and thanks. Keep thinking.



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About Me

Seeking the truth until I find it.