The Saddle Horn is not the Prairie

“Located at a specific point in time and confined to a certain kind of knowing, the self has reasons for ‘measuring out’ events as though the past were dead and the future not yet born. But from a more encompassing perspective, Time is the vitality of the Body of Knowledge, in which nothing arises and nothing passes away. The separation of potential from actuality and cause from effect is a consequence of measurements . . .” Knowledge of Time and Space, Page 446-447.

“The Big Bang” theory asserts that the beginning of time and space popped out of nothing and has been expanding ever since. Call it Primal Cause or God’s Creation: the mystery of us being here, trying to figure it out, remains.

We seem to be living inside a logical construction in which each element, like a Lego piece, has no option but to click into its predefined position. The resulting pattern governs our understanding of what is real: a reality where everything fits within the logic of the construction. However, at the edge of this predefined realm of the knowable, paradoxes abound, each pointing at the possibility of a more encompassing perspective.

One particularly fundamental paradox is our belief that we live in a present moment, surrounded by a past that is dead and a future that is not yet born. This belief claims that only in this unique moment can we enjoy awareness, presence, and aliveness. The conviction that we live in a single instant of time, which immediately vanishes into an inaccessible past, creates huge inconsistencies for all our theories about memory, intention, history, genealogy, and virtually all our assumptions about the continuity of time.

(Stephen Hawkins uses Quantum Theory–and how ‘virtual’ particles vanish and instantaneously reappear at a distance–to account for Black Hole radiation. Intense gravitational forces prevent anything from escaping across the event horizon; however ’virtual’ subatomic particles do not cross the event horizon. They disappear from inside and reappear outside.)

When and where is the handoff that allows us, in this very moment, to know what has already happened? If the past is dead, how does it communicate with a living present? The mechanics of “memory”, considered as access to a lifeless repository of historical data, simply doesn’t account for the influence of current feeling on what we remember.

Similarly, intention must create a living connection that joins the present with the future, in order for potential to become actual.

Perhaps there are two kinds of time (or two ways of experiencing time): the familiar, sequential timeline along whose corridor there is a special point where we are present, aware, and alive; and our self-generating personal journey from birth to death, viewed within cosmic history.

So what’s the issue? Aren’t we able to hold two ways of looking and two time frames in mind at the same time?

The problem seems to be our belief that we are only alive right now, and that for all other times we are either paying respect graveside to the departed or putting messages in bottles which we hope someone in the future will find. Regret, remorse and nostalgia enshrine our belief that the past has fallen off the cliff face of time. Expectation and fear project the shadows of the past onto a screen that stands at a boundary which delimits a future that is always out of reach. Wants and fears are the past trying to tell the future what it should continue and what it should drop from the menu.

But we are not obliged to treat the future like a slot machine called ‘fate’, especially since we don’t allow the future a speaking part in the drama of our days. Instead we try to fathom the future in terms of our past interests and expectations. Have we forgotten the future’s magical capacity to bring what is hidden into the light?

Perhaps in treating both past and future as absent—with only the present moment being present—we find ourselves hemmed in by two Siamese twins, each unable to take a breath. Perhaps it’s precisely because we view the past as forever gone that we try so desperately to urge the future to accomplish all the thinks that the past left undone. Could the rumor that the past is dead be causing us to treat the future and its unborn potential as of little interest other than an opportunity for the past to make up for lost time?

Instead of treating the past as inaccessible, could we learn to view the past as still alive in us: a dimension which the logical construct of linear, sequential time fails to understand? It’s as if we are flying on the back of a mythical creature, traversing a land of great majesty and beauty, and all we notice is the pommel of the saddle to which we cling.

Could we look in another way? Situated in a present moment, we affirm the remoteness of the past and the inaccessibility of the future in how we view them. It’s a sad paradox that we guarantee our own isolation by treating both past and future as absent–as if the expanse of the open sea could only be viewed through a tiny cabin porthole.

People who survive near death experiences often report that their lives “passed before them”. How is it possible that–with incredible vividness and detail—they experience a journey through their entire life time. We may explain such experiences in terms of memory operating in the present moment, but if we don’t want to wait until the moment of our death to experience our entire life in panoramic stereo, with times past, present and future on stage together, why don’t we investigate this potential now?

The Past is a child locked in the basement, who’s longing for the light we have forgotten to include in our present pursuits. But those past selves are still within us, ready to join in our present life. Sometimes we call them ‘forgotten dreams’ but they are more than dreams. They deserve our appreciation for the pains they have endured so that we can have a life. When we feel gratitude for the courage of these past selves, we have more courage in facing our present problems and challenges.

The Future is an unborn child who will have his own destiny, and we need to value this approaching birth, even treat it as sacred. The future is not a repetition of the past. Can we sense it kicking in the womb of time, or are we too busy defining the path it will take? Viewed through the lens of disappointment and expectation, are we missing a message from beyond?

Both past and future are our natural allies in this adventure we call life. They are the missing partners in a Time that is more like the ocean and the sky than a locked railway car racing out of control through a dark tunnel.

A more comprehensive knowing allows us to connect each emerging instant with an underlying, integrating rhythm of time.

“Knowledge knowing and embodying Time breaks the frozen chain of events. The rhythm of time is mastered, giving knowledge as completely stable, Time as invariable, and all presentations as equally allowing Space.” Knowledge of Time and Space, Page 458.

2 comments to “The Saddle Horn is not the Prairie”
  1. From a personal point of view, family stories of the past that are carried forward to the future have intrigued me from childhood. I have my great great grandmother’s stories from my grandmother, which I tell my grandchildren, which may be passed on to their grandchildren. Is the future of the stories my grandchildren’s memories of the past, mine, or my grandmother’s?

  2. Hi Lynsey,

    I like your image of how family stories flow through you and may continue on as touchstones for your grandchildren’s children. It makes a conection among past, present and future, and the living time that joins them, feel real. I personally don’t enjoy that kind of foothold in that dynamic. I never met one set of grandparents and never really knew the other set. And my own sons have a similar absence of contact with the past, since both of my parents had passed on by the time I started a family and their other grandparents were not very involved. This morning, I find myself thinking that my frequent recourse to metaphor may stem from a need to gloss over the missing details which those metaphors claim to represent . . .


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