The Future that Never Comes

I’ve been on a heavy dose of Alan Watts lately and I think its been rearranging my existence…in a good way, that is.

One of his famous ideas is that the future is not real. And when you think about, it isn’t.

The future is a concept that never comes into fruition. Its very definition is elliptical in the sense that it must always remain just out of reach. It is the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The future is never now. It cannot be by its very explanation as a temporal existence following the current state.

In this sense, the future is about as tangible as a unicorn. It is a magnificent idea, but will never come to my window offering me a magical ride through the night.

Good luck getting there.

If the future isn’t real, then why do we base everything we do around it?

This is a real problem. All of our lives are based in the future. Our very educational system is an achievement of perpetual preparation. We are always in a constant state of perennial planning. The goal of preschool is kindergarten. The goal of kindergarten is grade school. Grade school is for high school. Highschool for College. College, for those who have taken the bait (myself included), is for graduate school. And so on.

Yet it doesn’t end there. The mythical career is nothing more than a preparation for a better career. Increased pay, more responsibility, retirement. By the time we finally stop working, we’ve spent our entire life living in a false dimension (not to mention one is about ready to die by the time they retire these days). What kind of life is this?

When I was younger, I was a troublesome adolescent. I was sent away to a wilderness program where we learned the importance of understanding the present. A rule in this program was the elicit evocation of the “now” represented by two letters: F & I. These two extremely irritating letters stood for future information. Any time anyone asked about anything that had to deal with the future, a polite but annoying “No F.I.” was sounded. Besides making me want to pull my hair out, what this stubborn little tactic did was rather ingenious.

This was the only tape we got to listen to. And it was set on repeat at full blast.

Troubled youth often live in alternate realities. Whether it be the future, one of denial, or seen through an inflated ego, life is rarely lived in the now. These realities are essentially coping methods for dealing with the painful present. In the wilderness program, we were thrust into the ultimate present. We had only one worry: the task at hand.

The “No F.I.” rule helped me and many others situate ourselves in the now. In this reality, we were able to address issues that were troubling us (making us untroubled youth?). By coming back to the only “real” reality, we were able to connect with ourselves, our emotions, each other, and the greater community. This led to actual healing.

Now, what would the “No F.I.” rule do for society? Besides screwing up schedules and birthday parties, I think it would have a profound affect on stress levels. Almost all stress today is stationed in the future. If we were to greatly reduce the amount we lived in the future, we would lower our capacity to take on stress that—in all reality—doesn’t even exist.

If you haven't noticed, I really want some cake.

The future is the enemy. It steals from the present and robs from the blind? Well it does one of those things (or maybe both…). Okay, in all seriousness, living in the future is like planning a wedding that never happens. You can get all excited about it and order all the cake you want, but in the end, you’re never going to celebrate and no one’s getting married. It would be better to just kiss the one your with now and enjoy the moment.

For the moment is all we have.

I’ll end this rare and quirky, very strange post of mine with a quote from Erwin Schrödinger, a Nobel Prize winning Physicist. I seem to have fall in love with it

The present is the only thing with no end.

Wise minds are always smiling


2 thoughts on “The Future that Never Comes

  1. Yes…Alan watts that rascal of a sage.

    A man I believe was born way ahead of his time way ahead he really did help me restructure my perception of reality especially my grappling with atheistic views and learning to think critically free of conditioning, well for the latter i still struggle.

  2. I found this post because I was interested if anybody was talking about both Schrodinger and Watts in the same place. I don’t think they ever met, but if they did they would certainly have some things to say to one another.

    In Schrodinger’s book “What is Life?” (which I highly recommend) he talks a lot about entropy as it relates to the inputs and outputs of life–it’s really cool stuff. The thing is, the big bang model of the universe (which is the natural scientific conclusion of any worldview that starts with creation and ends with death) *defines* time using entropy. The beginning of time, the moment the big bang began, is the ultimate lowest entropy state. The heat death of the universe, when all that energy has run its course, is the ultimate highest entropy state. Time, then, is just how far along that process we are.

    And, if you buy what schrodinger says about life, then we are the force that moves that process along. Without life, the universe would get caught at a local maximum entropy state and never finish off. Life goes and finds that low entropy, consumes it, and gets the ball rolling again. My synthesis of these ideas causes me to think that we litterally invent the future.

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