Principle 1 Adaptation, 3rd Week

This week I’m trying something different.

Principle 1 third week
The Future 

As you will see my approach will be a little different this week. These considerations aren’t directly connected to the principle but they may illuminate it in interesting ways (or at least so I believe) if only indirectly.  Instead of focusing on the principle itself I want to take this opportunity to make two points about how we understand the psychological importance future.


Personal reflections on this week’s meditation.
Last week, I gave an example on a very “large scale” of the importance of how we see the inevitability of the future. For example, given the ecological, political and social chaos of our times it’s easy enough to believe that the world is inevitably heading toward destruction. Regardless of what the statistics might say it’s hard to believe there is less war, less violent crime and a higher global standard of living than ever. Hard to believe, but what’s it mean if it’s true? 

What looks like we are falling head over heels into the apocalypse can just as easily be understood, not as the fall of humankind but, as the much overdue fall of outgrown institutions and ideas making room for something new. Certainly civilizations run their course and people outgrow their ideologies but that’s not the end of the world… perhaps on the contrary it signals the birth of the human being.

The consequence of mistaking the end of certain institutions for the end of history could be tragic, or ridiculous or both.


The importance of the future.
On a few recent occasions we’ve spoken about the importance of the future. One example we’ve used before is that, of all the changes that could occur in someone who believes they are about to lose their livelihood – how they suffer even though the event hasn’t occurred. We compared their situation to that of a person who believes that they are about to get a great, high-paying job. Obviously there internal state is very different. Their suffering recedes, their preoccupations vanish, they feel stronger and confident.  But as in the first case nothing has happened, the only thing that has changed is an image of the future – a future that may turn out very differently than imagined. No doubt what has happened in the past influences the present situation – that’s widely understood but in these examples what is producing changes in the present is the future. It is something that has not happened (and may never happen).
 
The Three times of Consciousness – or the Three Pathways of Consciousness – or The Three Pathways of Suffering
At one point Silo explained what he called the pathways of suffering or alternately, for reasons that I hope will become apparent, the pathways of consciousness.
Here’s a clumsy and flawed version of that idea. I don’t think the weakness of my explanations is a big problem in this case. The implications, and the utility of the idea of the three pathways is not found on their surface. From the beginning Silo proposed that we really explore these pathways, that we delve deeply into them and try to understand their structure, and function. In fact, even though he later filled in the blanks, he said of his much more detailed explanations of this idea that they were too vague and overly general.
Whatever it’s aware of the consciousness is aware through the senses, the memory and the imagination. These are the three paths through which awareness functions. Hence, the name the three pathways of consciousness. When however we try to understand suffering we find ourselves exploring the same pathways. Suffering arises from sensation, imagination, and memory – and of course from their interactions.. hence, the name the three pathways of suffering. But memory and sensation can be illusory. So we can also talk about illusory pathways. Further more can also see that these pathways are also the times of consciousness, the gateways to the past (memory), the present (sensation) and the future (imagination).
In chapter 8 of the Internal Landscape, Silo wrote: “All suffering steals in through memory, imagination, or perception. But it is thanks to these same three pathways that thoughts, affections, and human deeds exist. So it is that even while these pathways are necessary for life, if suffering contaminates them they also become channels of destruction.