What follows are my reflections. I make no greater claim for them but offer them in the spirit of exchange and dialogue.
Thinking about how I might apply this principle to what I imagine the future holds always gets me thinking about the special importance Silo gives to the future in general. That’s quite different than how we usually think about the times of consciousness. Normally we privilege the past.
For example to understand our place in the universe we consider how we got here (the Big Bang, special creation, etc). When we try to understand ourselves we almost invariably look to the past and the events that have shaped me. When we look at the ancients we often find a great emphasis on the past and how much better things were back then. We might use as an example, the biblical story of Adam, Eve and the fall from Eden. It’s a story which places paradise in the past and explains all our woes by an action that took place back in that distant time.
Many of you are familiar with the phrase “Kali Yuga”, which refers to the Hindu notion of 4 ages (the Yugas) the first and most blessed (of course) was the Satya or Krita. Everything was good, there was no famine or disease, all people were saintly, devout and refined. This was followed the Treta Yuga and already things were getting worse. People and the Earth were not as perfect as they’d been. By the time of the Dvapara Yuga everything was, as you could have guessed, pretty screwed up. Of course we are living in the Kali Yuga which is a total shithole, the age of discord and degeneration. People are corrupt and barely human compared to what they were previously.
We find something similar among the ancient Greeks who their “history” into a series of ages. Way, way back in some long, lost, past there was the Golden Age, a time of peace, and prosperity. But of course, humanity began to lose its way and, according to this scheme inevitably falls into a Silver age, then a Bronze, ending in the present Iron, the most debased, age. Or something like that.
In the contemporary world a similar idea is found in both “high” and “low” culture. For example, not only ancient Greeks, but contemporary comic book collectors as well, talk about the Golden (1930s to 1950s) and Silver (mid-50s to 70s) ages of comics. Sci fi aficionados refer to the Golden age of science fiction (late 1930s to mid-40s), etc. And what about all those with short memories who look back to the fifties as a Golden Age for right thinking folks.
But as Silo pointed out while the past (or our interpretation of the past) certainly shapes us. what is decisive is the image we have of the future.
Forgive me if you’ve heard me use this example before, but imagine someone whose life today is not going so well, however our friend overhears a conversation that reveals that they are getting a big promotion and of course a raise to go with it. Though none of that has happened the (imagined) future changes how they feel and act today. But what if the conversation they heard revealed that they were going to be fired? Their experience of the present moment would change at least as drastically, but in a very different direction.
Their image of the future changes everything – despite them being the same person, in the identical present situation.
My father was a holocaust survivor who lived through WWII as a slave in various concentration camps, places devised to destroy, not just bodies, but the human spirit. I asked him once if there was something that allowed him to live through that hell and remain a kind and optimistic human being.
He said that one thing shared by those who survived is that they could imagine a future very different from their present reality.
This observation fits with the conclusions of Viktor Frankl a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who went on to found Logotherapy. He is perhaps best known for his book Man’s Search for Meaning.