Presenting the Future
an alternative to dependence on human sacrifice through global
pyramid selling schemes
- / -
Paper Abstract for: World Futures Studies Federation XVII World Conference,
Brasov, Romania (5-9 Sept 2001)
Abstract: Explores ways of making understanding of the future meaningful in
'the present' moment by giving it a new operational form of actuality
and immediacy that 'the future' tends to lack when it is described
in terms of scenarios that may become a reality at some distant time. 'Presenting'
is therefore used here in a much stronger and more radical sense of 'making
present' rather than in the more common, weaker and more dissociated sense
characteristic of 'presentations' about the future. This approach
responds to the often dramatic, concrete challenges of personal survival through
the austerity gap between present circumstances and the future time when their
unsatisfactory conditions may possibly be remedied by proposed initiatives.
From the prevailing perspective it is argued that many contemporary proposals
are difficult to distinguish from variants of Ponzi schemes in which people
are called upon to invest psychological or material resources in ways that benefit
the few 'in the present' without any guarantee of benefit to the many
'in the future'. In this light the paper explores enhancement of quality
of life, and sense of well-being, in the present -- and the ways in which 'the
futures' that can emerge are necessarily embodied embryonically in the
understanding of the present moment -- to a greater degree than is is implied
by efforts purporting to remedy external conditions towards such ends. It therefore
explores 'the future' as a distinct way of being in 'the present',
rather than as how people might experience 'the present' in some projected
'future'. This requires new consideration of the kinds of conceptual
feedback loops essential to sustaining well-being in the moment, whether or
not such considerations have long been characteristic of some non-western cultures.
It takes account of the variety of cultural understandings distinguishing, or
failing to distinguish, the present from the past or the future (typical of
the prevailing 'arrow of time' model) -- and the challenge of providing
a coherent framework for such a diversity of worldviews. The challenge of articulating
and understanding such a 'global' framework is seen here as raising
many issues with respect to 'local' understandings of experience in
the moment, which must necessarily impact upon commitment to 'development'
through time as currently advocated.
The inspiration and preoccupation of this paper is with the loss of the present
as a moment-by-moment experience. This experience is either projected onto the
future in terms of hopes or anxieties, or fragmented and commodified as discrete
consumables by which people may immediately be tempted.
Whether for the individual, a group, a nation or the world, there is much investment
in the articulation of desirable futures that might be planned for or purchased
-- to avoid less desirable futures. This kind of focus on the future, and the
ways of getting there, distracts from the lived experience of the moment, from
nowness -- where most people are necessarily obliged to live and move and have
their being. Much is said about the quality of life that might be achieved in
the future -- whether near or far. Little is however said about how people can
more fruitfully experience the present moment in anticipation of such changes
-- if indeed they are ever brought about. Many people are effectively being
subject to a form of Pyramid Selling (or Ponzi) scheme through the manner in
which they are encouraged to buy into a future -- sacrificing the present --
in a process that offers no response to their well-being of the moment. The
calls for investment in the future -- repeatedly neglecting any investment in
the present -- increasingly parody the pitches of 'snake oil' salesmen.
'Presenting the future', in this paper, is therefore about how the
present may be experienced in order to generate a more fruitful future. But
it is also about how the future may then be understood in new ways from such
a contrasting way of experiencing the present. In this sense it is an exploration
of why the proposed futures of the past have not worked and why -- contrary
to what is claimed -- those presented now are equally unlikely to work for many
subscribing to them.
An early inspiration for this paper came from involvement under Johan Galtung
in the Forms of Presentation subproject of the Goals, Processes and Indicators
of Development (GPID) project that he coordinated for the United Nations University
in the period 1979-82 (see Judge, 1984). The challenge of 'future generation'
was briefly explored in a paper (https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/converse.php#future)
for the 15th Conference of the World Future Studies Federation (Brisbane, 1997),
itself partially triggered by the initiative of Saul Kuchinsky through the UniS
Institute and partially by articulations of phenomenology by Francisco Varela
(1997) in relation to mindfullness.
More recently, however, it was inspired by exposure to the psycho-social role
of music on the west coast of Ireland (cf Steve Coleman, 1996).
In this respect, if guidance were to be given to the spirit in which this paper
could fruitfully be read -- as is given to those playing a musical score --
then the keywords might be: lilt, fey, sparkle, green, wit, tragedy, ancient
Part 1: Presentation
Part 2: Making (the)
Present and Thriving in the Moment
Part 3: Entelechy:
actuality vs future potential
Part 4: Composing
and Engendering the Future
Part 5: Present Moment
Research: exploration of nowness
Table 1: Varieties
of experience of past-present-future complexes
Postponement of 'coming together': Individually we appear
to have bought into a socially reinforced process dissociating from the present
moment -- encouraged by collective initiatives promoting investment in the future.
In the present moment, this has the effect of trapping people in what amounts
to temporal dungeons (sweatshops, slave pits, etc) on the promise, in development
schemes, that 'everything will all come together' someday -- as exemplified
by current hype in favour of globalization. This 'coming together'
is a denial of the arrow of time model underlying such proposals -- of which
there will always be more of the same. The model offers no convergence -- except
at the end of the universe or after death. People have effectively been transformed
into waiters -- encouraged to work in a temporal waiting room in anticipation
of the happy day. The incidence of Alzheimer's disease now offers a tragic caricature
of the individual's relationship to the present in contemporary society. The
future will recognize this to be as cruel as the crude practices of slavery
and colonialism -- of which this is a termporal variant.
It is understandable that in historical terms humanity would traverse mutual
mistreatment in its spatial (territorial, habeus corpus) manifestations
before becoming sensitive to its more elusive temporal analogues. It is useful
to recognize the extent to which the current manipulation of space-time through
project logic -- based on forms of pyramid selling -- is dependent on human
sacrifice, whether literally or metaphorically. The present has been turned
into an unrecognized altar on which people are sacrificed to the future. This
is typified by the worst of assembly line and sweatshop practices, and the enshrined
drudgery of the housewife.
Loss of the future: Ironically, at a time when much is made of 'the
future', for increasing numbers of people there is 'no future'.
They have no sense of having any future. The future has been removed. For many
there is a similar loss of the past, as traditional communities are destroyed.
They have 'no past'. Much has been made of this sense of rootlessness
and loss of history. The past has thus also been removed. Curiously however
people are encouraged to take up mortgages, acquire obligations (giri), or are
forced into some form of bonded labour (in certain societies). In the word mortgage,
the mort- derives from death (as in mortician) and -gage is from
the sense of pledge to forfeit something of value if a debt is not repaid. So
mortgage is literally a dead pledge. It was dead for two reasons, the property
was forfeit or "dead" to the borrower if the loan were not repaid and the pledge
itself was dead if the loan was repaid. For many their future has been heavily
mortgaged. In this sense both past and future have been devastated and people
have been alienated from the present.
Cultivating the present moment: Much has been achieved through industrialization
-- but much has also been lost. Nevertheless industrialization, like globalization,
is still recommended as a pancea. The point to make here however is not a stress
on 'back to the land' or romanticizing the wild, rather it is the
patterns of thinking that have been lost to many through this disconnection.
Industrial environments rarely offer reminder's of patterns in nature -- with
the ironic exception of the atria of expensive hotels. Traditional farming offers,
metaphorically, patterns of sensitivity to an individual's immediate environment
that are are absent in an industrialized environment.
This paper raises the question as to whether individuals can 'farm the
present' for themselves. Is it possible to engage in patterns of relationship
with the present moment that nourish in significant ways -- whether or not material
foods are adequate? Are there 'fields' to be ploughed and irrigated,
'crops' to be cultivated, 'animals' to be husbanded -- in
the microseconds of attention that characterize the present moment, rather than
the grosser temporal preoccupations of the day? Are such patterns vital to engendering
a more fruitful future?
How may the present moment be more fruitfully encountered or grokked?:
- One approach is to 'grasp' or seize it -- Carpe Diem! This
approach is very consistent with a particular style of western opportunism,
dimensions of which are frequently criticized by feminists. It is useful to
speculate that, like many women, reality may have its own resistance to such
grasping (see discussion)
- From a different extreme, the moment may be seen in the light of giving
birth -- as a process of continuous labour -- giving birth to the future.
There are myths which recognize this perspective. The present may indeed be
felt as preganant with significance. Alternatively it might be understood
as continuous intercourse between two aspects of reality -- again a perspective
acknowledged in some cultures.
- More accessibly the moment might be experienced as a process of flirting
with reality, as a form of continuing courtship between self and other. In
this sense it could be experienced as a dance of changing style and rhythm.
One might be enfolded by the experience of the moment, or switch to enfolding
- The present might also be understood as a dramatic moment in a continuing
drama, with elements of tragedy, comedy and sublime significance. The future
might be given form in the present through dramatic enactment in which others
are cast in suitable roles.
- The moment might be experienced as one of creative composition -- composing
the moment, possibly orchestrated to include a variety of instruments, singers
and musical styles. The art, in the moment, would be tuning the parts into
a melodic whole -- however melodic is to be interpreted as meaningful. This
art has been most assiduously practiced and advocated by the Renaissance leader
who headed the Florentine Academy (motto: Laetus in Praesens [Joy in
the Present]). His approach is skillfully interpreted by Thomas Moore (1982),
notably in a chapter on the Well-Tempered Life, and with the endorsement
of depth psychologist James Hillman (1975) (see summary)
- Can music, or singing, be embodied in the moment to engender a more coherent
and meaningful future as suggested by the work of the philosopher, Antonio
de Nicolas (1978), using the non-Boolean logic of quantum mechanics (P A Heelan,
1974) in exploring the epistemological significance of cognitive experience
grounded in tone and the shifting relationships between tone in the Rg
Veda. It is through the pattern of musical tones that the significance
of the Rg Veda is to be found:
This offers new dimensions to sacrifice that contrast with those required
by contemporary economics. The physical effects of resonance from sound are
well known. Can such psychological analogues be set up to engender the future
and exert a time-binding force? Within such a context, can analogues to overtones
as vehicles for particular forms of understanding?
'Therefore, from a linguistic and cultural perspective, we have
to be aware that we are dealing with a language where tonal and arithmetical
relations establish the epistemological invariances... Language grounded
in music is grounded thereby on context dependency; any tone can
have any possible relation to other tones, and the shift from one tone
to another, which alone makes melody possible, is a shift in perspective
which the singer himself embodies. Any perspective (tone) must be 'sacrificed'
for a new one to come into being; the song is a radical activity which
requires innovation while maintaining continuity, and the
'world' is the creation of the singer, who shares its dimensions
with the song.' (1978, p. 57)
- Another approach to the moment is through humour. Many spiritual traditions
celebrate the moment through humour, notably in folk tales such as those of
Nasruddin. Some taoists, and others (Chogyam Trunpa, 1991), practice a form
of 'crazy wisdom'
to cut through mental clutter surrounding fruitful appreciation of the moment.
Separately, or as complementary attitudes, any of the above could effectively
used to make of the present 'Camelot-in-the-Moment'.
Right to quality of well-being in the moment: Much has necessarily been
made of the rights of individuals to tangibles (food, health, etc) and to intangibles
manifest over time (freedom of information, freedom of religion, etc). Little
attention has focused on the rights to what Christopher Alexander has discussed
as the 'quality without a name' (Timeless Way of Building,
1979) as manifested in the moment. Industrialized society has however come to
recognize aspects of its importance under the term 'quality time'
or in the increasing difficulty for top corporations to retain valuable exectuives.
But the popint was made long ago by the realization that 'man cannot live
by bread alone'.
The question raised here is whether a future of quality in the moment can be
continually postponed to provide tangibles for some, and promises of tangibles
to others -- with little attention to the quality of experience in the moment.
Aesthetics of nowness: There is an aesthetics to nowness that is being
lost in industrialized society. This has been review by Gary DeAngelis in relation to Shintoism and Zen in Japan (, Zen And The Art Of Teaching: the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, Diotima: a philosophical review, 2, 2001, 1).
He argues that from this perspective:
...beauty is tied into mortality and a deep awareness of the frailty of life,
beauty and love. This awareness leads to a heightened sensitivity to and appreciation
of the immediacy of things or the nowness of life. This is most clearly manifested
in the Japanese concepts of mono-no aware and yugen.... I think
that aware could also be translated as a sensitivity to things, an
incredible and profound sensitivity to life in its very 'beingness' or 'isness'--a
sensitivity to the wonder, beauty and pathos of things because of the transitory
nature of life....
If we add to this the notion of naka ima, with its emphasis on living
in the purity of the present moment, we perhaps come closest to the uniqueness
of the Japanese religious worldview. It is here that we see a vision of life
not based on rational abstractions and artificial social conventions but in
emotional and aesthetic sensitivity to the beauty and pathos of life.
This understanding is quite elusive at the rational level--so, how does one
acquire this? Where does one look? This leads us to the notion of yugen.
Yugen is a symbolic word used to describe the mysterious, the profound,
the remote--things not easily grasped nor expressed in words--a region lying
well beyond form....The yugen is this elusive place, this silence which
lies beyond our rational grasp. It may be impossible to explain the yugen
but we can intuitively sense it....
What needs to be emphasized here is the centrality of pure feeling, experience
and sensitivity of the quality of the lived moment. For the Japanese the realization
of truth at this level is what makes life extraordinary.
Clearly religions with other aesthetic and spiritual emphases -- notably Christian
religions -- would attach quite different terms to such experience.
A focus for such explorations is the signficance in many cultures of the natural
spring -- stylized and enhanced in fountains. It is the upwelling of the spring
which beautifully epitomizes the emergence of the present moment -- defining
the future and its transition into the past. In the brief moment of emergence
it holds imaginative magical qualities that have made it a focus for human architecture
down the ages. Unfortunately, in practice it is surrounded by material accretions
that deny the quality of that moment whilst claiming to enhance it. It is in
the world of these accretions that industrialized culture encourages people
to live. Spring water is commodifed as bottled water imported from afar -- and
the qualities of the present moment are commodified in media moments.
'Time past and time future, What might have been and what
has been, Point to one end, which is always present.' (T. S. Eliot)
"To master attention is to hold consciousness like a paintbrush
and transform one's life into living art." (Vivian Wright)
'The future will be made by the people who can relate to
the present' (Allan Howard)
Laetus in Praesens [Joy in the Present --
motto of the Florentine Academy]
Ron Atkin. Multidimensional Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space?
Gregory Bateson. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Ballantine Books, 1972.
Janis Birkeland. 'Community participation' in urban project assessment (an
ecofeminist analysis). In: Brian Martin (Ed.), Technology and Public Participation,
Wollongong, Australia: Science and Technology Studies, University of Wollongong,
1999, pp. 113-142 (with commentaries by Bronwyn Hayward and Paul Selman and
a reply by the author; also: Critique of Manstream Planning, The Trumpeter. 8, 2, pp. 2-84) [text]
C. George Boeree. Causes and Reasons: The Mechanics of Anticipation [text]
E P Brandon. What's become of becoming? Philosophia, 16, n 1,
pp. 71-77, 1986 [text]
Fritjof Capra. Tao of Physics. Shambhala Publications, 1991
Corinne Cerf. Atlas of Oriented Knots and Links. Université Libre de
Bruxelles, 1999 [text]
Thomas Cleary (Tr.). Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life. HarperCollins,
J. Cohen and Ian Stewart. The Collapse of Chaos: discovering simplicity in a
complex world. Viking, 1994
Steve Coleman. Sentiment, entelechy, and text in Irish-language song tradition.
Gary Delaney DeAngelis. Zen and the Art of Teaching: the pursuit of knowledge
and wisdom. Diotima: a philosophical review, 2, 2001, 1 [text]
Natalie Depraz, Francisco J. Varela, and Pierre Vermersch. On Becoming Aware: A
Pragmatics of Experiencing. John Benjamins Pub Co, 2003 (Advances in Consciousness
Antonio de Nicolas. Meditations through the Rg Veda. Shambhala, 1978
Craig R. Eisendrath. The Unifying Moment: The Psychological Philosophy of William
James and A. N. Whitehead. Harvard University Press, 1971.
John Fudjack and Patricia Dinkelaker. Enneagram as Mandala. 1999 [text]
Jean Gebser (Tr.). The Ever-Present Origin. Ohio, Athens,
Eugene Gendlin. Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: a philosophical and
psychological approach to the subjective. Free Press, Glencoe, 1962 (reprinted
by Northwestern University Press, 1997).
P A Heelan. The Logic of Changing Classificatory Frameworks. In: J A Wojciechowski
(Ed). Conceptual Basis of the Classification of Knowledge. K G Saur,
1974, pp. 260-274
James Hillman.. Re-Visioning Psychology. Harper and Row, 1975
Don Ihde. Singing the world: language and perception. In: from Expanding Hermeneutics:
Visualism in Science. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1998
- Being Other Wise: Clues to the dynamics of
a meaningfully sustainable lifestyle. 1998 [text]
- Future generation through global conversation: in quest of collective
well-being through conversation in the present moment. (Paper for the 15th
World Conference of the World Futures Studies Federation (Brisbane, Sept-Oct
1997). Theme: Global Conversations: what you and I can do for future
- Forms of Presentation and the Future of Comprehension.
Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1984 (Collection of papers
mainly presented to the Forms of Presentation sub-project of the Goals,
Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University).
- The future of comprehension: conceptual birdcages
and functional basket-weaving (Paper written on the occasion of the First
Global Conference on the Future, Toronto, 1980: Theme: Thinking Globally/Acting
Locally) Transnational Associations, 1982, 6, pp. 400-404 [text]
- Universal Declaration of the Rights of Human
Organization an experimental extension of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights., International Associations, 23, 1, 1971, pp. 13-26. [text]
Louis H Kauffman. Knots and Physics. University of Illinois (Series
on Knots and Everything, vol. 1) [text]
Julia Kristeva. Desire in Language. Columbia, 1980
Saul Kuchinsky. Present Moment Publications. UniS Institute, 1994-1999 [text]
R.D. Laing. Knots. Pantheon Books, 1970
Konrad Lorenz. The Eight Deadly Sins of Civilized Man. Harcourt Brace
Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962
Thomas Moore. Planets Within: the astrological psychology of Marsilio Ficino.
Lindisfarne Books, 1982
Ken Mogi. Response Selectivity, Neuron Doctrine, and Mach's Principle in Perception.
The Austrian Society for Cognitive Science, Technical Report 97-01. 176-183.
R. Port and T. van Gelder. Mind as Motion: Explorations in the Dynamics of
Cognition. MIT Press, 1995
Darrell A. Posey (Ed.). Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity: a
complementary contribution to Global Biodiversity Assessment, Intermediate Technology,
1999 (for the United Nations Environment Programme)
Tony Robbin. Fourfield: computers, art and the fourth dimension. Bullfinch,
D. Rolfsen. Knots and Links. Houston, Publish or Perish, 1990
Keith Rowley-Yugen. "Singing the World:": Bridging Disparities via the Phenomenon
of Music [text]
Chogyam Trungpa. Crazy Wisdom. Shambhala, 1974
Tung-Pin Lu, Richard Wilhelm and Carl Gustav Jung. Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life. Harvest, 1988 (In: Collected Works of C. G. Jung,
Vol. 13. Princeton University Press, 1967)
Francisco J. Varela:
- The specious present : a neurophenomenology of time consciousness. In:
J.Petitot, F.J.Varela, J.-M. Roy and B.Pachoud (Eds.), Naturalizing Phenomenology:
Issues in Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Stanford University
Press, 1997 [text]
- Laying Down a Path in Walking: essays on enactive cognition. Zone Books/MIT Press, 1997
Francisco J. Varela, N.Depraz, and P. Vermersch. The Gesture of Awareness: an account
of its structural dynamics. In: M Velmans (Ed). Investigating Phenomenal
Consciousness. Benjamin, 1999 [text]
Francisco J. Varela and J. Shear (Eds.). The View from Within: First-person methods
in the study of Consciousness, Imprint Academic, 1999.
Francisco J. Varela. Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom, and Cognition. Stanford University Press, 1999
Francisco J. Varela, F. E.Thompson, and E.Rosch. The Embodied Mind: cognitive
science and human experience. MIT Press, 1991
Ken Wilber. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Shambhala, 1995
D C Williams. The Myth of Passage. The Journal of Philosophy 48, 1951, pp. 457-72