Plan Ahead 500 Years

Planning ahead pays off. You can affect the future in ways you may have never thought of. What you teach your children, you teach their children.

The anthropologist/philosopher Gregory Bateson used to tell a story:

New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundation, hence the name.  It was founded around the late fourteenth century.  It has, like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oak beams across the top, yes?  These might be two feet square, forty-five feet long.

A century ago, so I am told, some busy entomologist went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were full of beetles.  This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that caliber nowadays?

One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on College lands some oak.  These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country.  So they called in the College Forester, who, of course, had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about oaks.

And he pulled his forelock and said, “Well, sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end.  This had been passed down from one Forester to the next for five hundred years.  “You don’t cut them oaks.  Them’s for the College Hall.”

A nice story.  That’s the way to run a culture.

Every time I’ve told this story since I first heard it from Gregory in the 1970s, someone always asks, “What about for the next time?  Has a new grove of oaks been planted and protected?”  I forwarded the question to the authorities at New College, the College Archivist, and the Clerk of Works.  They had no idea.

A Good Lesson

One of the lessons I teach in my monthly Time Management seminar is . . . ”What should you do today that will not pay off for years and years and years?”  This story is a great example of planning ahead.  Remember that money does not grow on trees, and also that money cannot make trees grow faster.   . . . Lee

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