To celebrate its 15th birthday, LinkedIn encouraged people to share their reflections under #WhenIWas15. Reading those essays, I realised with a shock that I remember very little of when I was 15.

Except that it was the year our family bought a colour television and I made acquaintance of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. It was also my 10th year of school, the year of public board exams. They were crucial since senior school subject choices and the trajectory of one’s life thereafter were brutally dependent on the outcome of these exams. I turned 15 months after these exams got over. My mind has blocked almost everything, perhaps from exam trauma. I have never liked the artificial setting of exams, sitting in a room, for a set amount of time, even though I channelled the dislike into acing them most of the time.

This essay caught my eye, especially the line “..the Future is not more of the past” which made me think.

I could not watch TV without also reading a book then, I cannot watch a film or a documentary on any screen, without simultaneously reading a book now.

I loved watching Jeremy Brett’s Holmes, and I note Benedict Cumberbatch’s depiction of Holmes seems to have a Brett hangover — minus the melancholic air.

The future is not more of the past but it is often anchored, sometimes uncomfortably, in the past. For instance, Brett’s Holmes used horse-drawn carriages, while Cumberbatch’s uses black cabs (or Hackney carriages) and modern mobile technologies such as texts and maps (and mental maps).

The past, the present, and the future share some characteristics. There are artifacts, activities, and our relationship with those. There is space and time. There is the human need to move from A to B, to be moved and inspired, to eat, to engage in social signalling. There is curiosity and there are mysteries to be solved, where the tools may change but it still takes Watson’s moral compass to balance Holmes’s almost amoral approach to challenges. There is hubris, which sometimes meets its nemesis.

The human being — with all her fierceness, fabulousness, follies, foibles, failures, frailties — and the ability to think link the future with the past.

Hypatia of Alexandria counselled us to reserve our right to think “..for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.

She was also wise to exhort us to understand the present. “To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.

When I was 15, I was trying to understand the present. Now when I am not 15, the quest continues.

(Cross posted on LinkedIn here)

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