The Arrow's Trajectory

 These days it seems pretty difficult to not fall into apocalyptic thinking. We are beset by a pandemic that is destroying global health and economies. The democracy we Americans pride ourselves on may have a dubious future.The priesthood of scientists tells us that global climate change is a certainty, that there are limits to growth and so forth. Political and economic commentators on both the left and right warn us that the world is moving in directions which are frightening. The left warns us of financial/corporate oligarchs who seem to have in mind a return to a sort of feudal society where the majority of workers are serfs who are perennially indebted to the new landed overlords.  The right warns us that our Christian values are being destroyed by the liberal forces of society and that we are headed for an ungodly future. 

 It is hard not to feel in one's bones that the world is off balance and deeply fear for the future. Powerlessness and anger seem to be the mood of the times.  Act locally and think globally may be the best ecological option, but I can't help look around my house and see the mass of non-biodegradable stuff that fills it and realize what I am willing to future generations. If there are any. No less a public intellectual than Noam Chomsky wrote that he is not sure humanity even has a future.

 How did it come to this?  Does the past even matter, or is it only the future that matters? Perhaps it is the archer in me, but I can't help but think that seeing the flight of an arrow to any point in its trajectory will tell me a lot about its future trajectory and where it is going to strike the target. 

 The thing that occurs to me about my feeling powerless these days is that a couple of consequences derive from it.  One is a sense that everything around me is in chaos, but the other is that we have arrived at this situation as a consequence of a natural process. Probably the Buddhist in me prefers the later, as the foundation of Buddha's teachings is causality: if this, then that.

 So now what?  What can I divine from the arrow's trajectory? What will I find when the pandemic is quelled? When the election has passed?

 There is no lack of commentators writing stories about the future. They fill the magazines and social media posts. But what trajectory are they mapping in their stories?  It has seemed to me that usually they see the future as an alternative to a familiar past. Occasionally a really creative mind suggests that the arrow is headed into territory unlike anything previously experienced. Nora Bateson has that sort of mind.

 As for myself, I try to avoid making up any stories about the future. My imagination is not up to creating a story about a future that does not look like a version of the past. I find I need to reject dystopian pessimism as much as naive optimism. And anyway, as Zachoeje Rinpoche has been reminding me lately, most of the stories my mind creates about the present or past  have nothing to do with reality anyway. Why would it do better with the future?  It is hard to sit with unknowing, but it seems like the only real honesty.



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