Working with these exercises felt something like looking at my activities through a microscope (or maybe a macroscope), to see how my past and my expectations are continuously in play…
Past Present and Future – TSK Ex 18-19-20-21
Most of the time it seems, I take myself to be physically separate from everything else, with an accumulation of experiences or memories that serve not only as a rudder in the flow of new experience, but also shapes that new experience, a rudder that determines the direction of the present – something from the back that controls the front. These experiences developed into patterns that I’ve learned in early childhood and repeated over and over gradually becoming tendencies, my defenses and preferences, in short, my habitual behavior, and a major way of self-identification.
The types of basic behavior that seem to manifest in me most often are 1) strategic, 2) achievement, and 3) the enjoyment of thinking. Strategic in that there is a preoccupation with sorting through a myriad of experience searching for patterns that match with the past, looking for the familiar, often with the purpose to improve what is judged in some way as currently unsatisfactory. Achievement behavior operates in such a way that there is an underlying and nearly constant whisper of discontent that seems to push me to accomplish something tangible, to master a process, or to gain possession of something in order to feel at least temporarily satisfied. Additionally, there is the enjoyment of thinking behavior; the need for introspection and conceptual examination. This intellectual activity is continuously interactive with the strategic and achieving behaviors. Learning is part of that intellectual activity, something I like doing; not necessarily in a formal academic prescription, put toward whatever interests me.
As I investigate these behaviors, I see thinking strategically involves Time; it is a semi-continuous activity of thinking ahead, of running what if scenarios to determine the most advantageous path. It involves filtering current situations through a search of past experience to project future possibilities from a me-here perspective. The mostly forward direction is that linear structure of past-present-future applied to the unfolding moment. Although during any given moment the focus can jump from present to future or present to past, the perspective is still confined by that limited, linear time structuring.
Regarding my learning activity, I see that I often treat knowledge as an object to be acquired by a self that aggregates. Reading a paragraph to learn something as yet unknown, for example, projects the unknown out as an unfulfilled object to be fulfilled and checked along the way against already acquired past knowledge. There’s a similar subject-object, linearity structuring time as when I am thinking strategically.
So it seems these basic types of behavior I engage in most often are made of Time, and orchestrated by a self that narrows the perspective on the moment of doing these things, by imposing the past-present-future structure. But there have been moments when that structure has loosened, and the tension holding past and future relaxes, and the present opens to varying degrees.
In some of those moments, perhaps from a second level perspective, the feeling was of a semi-fixed self-position in a flow of forms, when I was aware of the input from all the senses, and I noticed my self-position, like the bow of a boat in an oncoming stream of form, and I also noticed that I could not maintain its fixed position in this flow. It kept ‘timing out,’ the self-position kept trying to take a new fix on the flow, to try to hold it as a new moment, and in doing that my new perspective was narrowed. Holding on to a moment involved a narrowing interest in some aspect of what was appearing, some narrowed particular of a fuller appearance. Perhaps I could say the present feelings and experience become a memory and those past feelings and experience were often used on the next open moment, and thus, the self brought its fixing tendency into each open moment as the past, to introduce a narrowing of perspective often through comparison. Once I saw I was fixing a position in the stream it seemed to let go. Direction seemed to dissipate, time and space opened, and there was space and form in bursts in a much more open presentation of bursting forms that reminded me of a kaleidoscopic display in a living, viscous, sensing medium, but it is difficult to describe without using language that gives a fixing impression, even though little seemed fixed.
I played with reversing the time structure of my types of behaviors. By placing ‘me’ in the present looking back, time seemed to be cemented by ‘agenda’. There’s a path of choices and experience leading to now. Looking from the future back to now, the future seems so open, so uninvested and indeterminate. Looking from the future, a self has little to aggregate to bind it, to fix itself, there’s no specific path or structure to measure itself against. Without a specific goal to anchor to, the future is wide open. All possibilities could be entertained. When I first worked with this reversal, there was freedom from the usual structuring of the present, but for the self that is accustomed to that structuring activity, it was slightly disorienting, with a trace of forbidding, perhaps like a child being led into a dark room. Later, as I continued with it, I completely lost any disorientation, and simply enjoyed the open feeling and freedom of looking from the future.
Then, I remembered something my teacher for many years, Jack Petranker, wrote in a post entitled, Writing as Discipline, about the writing craft and the act of trying to frame his thoughts, in which he said: “I find myself off and running, in an unexpected direction, in fact, a direction that I didn’t even know existed.” I thought that was an example of directing the present into an imagined future with an unexpected outcome – the unexpected being beyond the structure that the self sets up as the expected. The availability of the unexpected was the very freedom from limitation I felt from the perspective of the future.