The Constructs of Past and Future

Jack ended this morning’s conference call quoting from this week’s reading about how we seem to be sentenced to occupy a vanishingly small present moment, because both Past and Future are constructs, not time which we can step into.  This seems a similar point to the one that we can’t walk in someone else’s shoes or look through their eyes.  However through friendship we can connect to the minds and hearts of other people.  Perhaps friendship is a tool we can also use to contact the past and future.  If we can feel empathy for the versions of ourselves who lived our lives in the past, perhaps we not only connect to that past time, but through this feeling of friendship we may find that we are not alone in facing the issues of today.  And if we can open to the future in a way that gives voice to that future, rather than projecting out needs and wants onto it, perhaps the energy and hope of an unborn future will pour into this otherwise “vanishing moment”.  –Michael

About Michael Gray

I first started studying TSK in the mid 1980's and have since attended a number of retreats and workshops at the Nyingma Institute, in both TSK and Buddhist themes. I participated in the life-changing Human Development Training Program in 1991, and upon returning to Albuquerque co-founded an organization, Friends in Time (with a friend who has Lou Gehrig's Disease), which continues to serve people with similiar disabilities. I contributed an essay to "A New Way of Being"--the last one in the book--in which I describe how learning to honor who I have been has broadened and deepened my openness to present experience. I live in New Mexico with my wife and two sons.
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4 Responses to The Constructs of Past and Future

  1. David says:

    This is interesting Michael, I don’t remember using the egg analogy before. So strange. The not-known of the moment I was writing that ‘eggy’ response to you apparently included my lost memory, a different past, if you will from your recall. Selecting what we remember, the present shapes the past we carry into the next moment. I might remember a past detail, I might not, my present follows a structuring. The video of the underwater egg in that moment helped shape the next few moments of composing my written comment. Had I remembered I used that egg analogy before I might not have written the comment. The present could have unfolded in potentially different ways. Interesting to contemplate Time’s dynamic this way. :-)

  2. michaelg says:

    Blaird and David, thank you for your comments to my post. They make my “present” reflections more interesting and alive. Jack’s four pages, which are now available in”phone calls and orientation”, are as well very stimulating. They make me look forward to the next six weeks with lively anticipation and with the hope that we can indeed form the supportive group for inquirying into Time, which Jack envisions.
    Blaird, looking quickly through DTS chapter Nine I didn’t see the phrase “vanishing moment”, so perhaps I imagined it or projected it, or perhaps Jack was engaging in a timely poetic impulse of his own. Meanwhile, the meaning of the image for me is that the present must logically be as small as a Euclidean point, if it vanishes the instant it arises, and the future, in order to remain the future, can never arrive. I often feel, while reading the TSK books, that it is valuable to have this absurd situation pointed out (that there is nowhere to live in linear time, if the past is dead, the future not yet arrived, and the present moment infinitely small). It helps draw my attention to the reality of the greater, more accomadating, and more integrated time, in which I actually live.
    David, I liked your image of the egg when you first shared it. And it remained with me while reading Jack’s Orientation notes. Both explore the felt environment in which we live and swim: that sense of being surronded by and perhaps contained within some kind of sphere–in terms both of time and of space. One little fact about an egg may be pertinent here. I’ve heard it said that between the white and the yoke of an egg, it is the transparent egg white that becomes the living chicken when fertilized, and the yoke ends up in the stomach of the chick, where it provides sustenance until it becomes possible to break the shell from inside. If we are like that chick, encapsulated within the shell or our own projections, our self-images drawn from the palette of the already known, then inside us, hidden in places we have not yet learned to look, we might discover the sustenance we need for a new relationship with Time. — Michael

  3. David says:

    Hi Michael,
    I really liked how you put this, inquiring into Time can seem difficult, but putting the inquiry on a personal level as you have done seems to make the inquiry more accessible. It seems to me, an essential understanding of the present moment involves recognition that if it is crowded with thinking – what I want, what I anticipate, what I’m afraid of, etc. – then can there be room beyond these concerns? Can the moment feel greater than what our thoughtful concerns fills and plugs it up with?

    The other day a watched a short video of what happens when you crack an egg 60 feet underwater? Except in boiling water, we’re used to seeing an egg and yoke conform to what it is contained by; its shell, a bowel, a pan, a cup, etc. As shown in the video below, the egg conforms roughly to a sphere in a liquid medium, as long as that medium is relatively still and not frothy.|maing8|dl12|sec1_lnk1%26pLid%3D225405

    It occurred to me to look for parallels, and I paused – what is the shape of my sense of self as I move through time? Of course, there are times when I’m not focused on a sense of self, but when I do is there a shape to that moment? So as I observe “I” feel something like a convergence, like an egg contained in a medium of consciousness, if you will. There’s a kind of floating in mental space that extends only so far back in space and time, and only as far ahead in space as I imagine, constructing a future.

    But within the relative immediacy of the present moment there is a felt sense of “me” as a working body, a breathing and sensing system that is situated within an environ made real by sensual input, and also by historical contexts that I can call to mind and link together by a self-describing narrative. And in each new bubble of a moment, an egg-like self-awareness keeps reconstituting and holding together based on a feeling of ‘I am here’, and a self-referring story of who I am by way of identifying memories, desires, fears. This process is constantly repeating, almost like blinking, as if each blink reveals a new moment of constructing the egg.

  4. blaird says:

    An uplifting and hopeful comment, Michael. I appreciate the sentiment :)

    Interesting — I didn’t get that part about being somehow ‘sentenced to occupy a vanishingly small present moment’ from today’s call. That makes it sound like a punishment. Perhaps that’s a reference to experience in ‘lower time’ (as opposed to ‘higher time’)?

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