Hindsight is 20/20

June 16, 2014

They say that hindsight is 20/20 but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Our memories are often distorted and confused with our biases, our thinking patterns, our emotions, and information from external sources. Rarely do they match the reality.

We often think how wonderful it would be if we could have 20/20 hindsight before we make major decisions but, maybe we do have it, and we ignore it, or we rationalize our untenable actions as if it hadn’t happened before, or as if we didn’t instinctively know that what we are about to do will have dire consequences.

There’s an old expression, “If I knew then, what I know now . . .” Hindsight implies that we would do the right thing, or make different choices, if we knew what was coming but, even with hindsight, we often don’t do something different, we just wish we had done something different.

Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright, didn’t like the concept of 20/20 hindsight and, in Oedipus Rex, he wrote, “I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.”

It would be comforting to think that even if we can’t have 20/20 hindsight, we could at least learn from the mistakes we made in the past. Comforting, but not realistic. Most people have to keep making the same mistakes, and suffering a great deal of agony each time, before they make a conscious decision to take a different path.

When we look at all the things we do repeatedly and apologize for and suffer for, it’s plain to see that even with 20/20 hindsight, we are still blind. Think of all the people who gambled and lost everything, who said they would never gamble again, and the first time they pass a casino, they’re at the tables proclaiming, once again, that they feel lucky.

Look at all the people who are in abusive relationships who swear up and down that the next time they are hit, they’ll leave, but very few of them do. The same can be said of people who keep investing money in terrible business deals, and no matter how much money they lose, they just keep doing the same thing.

These are only a few of the 20/20 hindsight examples that people have, and ignore. And that makes me think that having 20/20 hindsight is as ineffective as having no sight at all.

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