Looking Forward to Something

I feel I move backwards into time. The future, unseen, is at my back and I can only see the past, rising up before me like a swarm of butterflies and hornets, fluttering and stinging through the memories that constitute my sense of being a person in this world.

I wonder what it would feel like–if I could only manage it–to turn around and look into the face of a future arising like a sea breeze filling the sails, or like a gurgling brook flowing from far off mountains and sparkling happily in the afternoon sunlight.

I tell myself that I am always thinking about the future, for instance glancing at my clock so I don’t miss my evening medications a few hours from now. But I don’t think that it is actually the future that is guiding my concern with the passage of time and with the actions I don’t want to forget to take.

Such concerns feel more like the past projecting expectations and interpretations onto a screen situated in an unmoving present, which displays images that come out of my past through memory and out of that other past-centered event in time: expectation.

To be in the presence of the future would feel different: it might include a sense that something that has never happened and may never happen is singing out of ocean depths; perhaps it is the haunting song of a humpback whale heard close by, but nothing can be certain about what resides in this future.

Someone is hearing that song and following it, daring to row his dingy into the mist—perhaps fearful, perhaps not—willing to encounter a being much larger and probably more aware, more alive, than the one pulling on the oars. As the oars creak in the oarlocks and the tympany of waves drum against the hull, his face remains turned toward the water that he has already traversed.

He doesn’t know if he will hit the side of a gigantic whale and be capsized, but he keeps moving into that future without any sure knowledge of what may happen next. He just knows that the future has his back.

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