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The Future

It feels odd to announce "The Future."  Clearly, this announcement is part of the present:  I'm making it now.  In doing so I am grasping (at) something that is neither present nor part of the remembered past. 

It doesn't seem to matter whether I believe myself to be declaring the meeting (or my intention to hold it), or whether I am predicting that it will occur.  Not that this isn't a real difference, but it does seem that the future exists without us, without our intentions.

But when we speak of the future, we are ordinarily concerned with which future, rather than the temporal relationship of the abstract future to the present.  I'm currently reading (well, not right now, because I'm typing this) H. G. Well's The TIme Machine:  while a time machine would make a fantastic prop for our meeting, the book itself better illuminates what the future means in the present.  In the online sci-fi course I recently completed, time and again we saw visions of the future that employed the facade of prediction to disguise statements about what exists today.  Utopias show us worlds that "obviously" don't exist, yet bear uncanny resemblance to what does.  Why would authors elect to use the circuitous device of the future to describe the present?  More important, how might our own talk of the future be doing the same?

Yet I got something more profound out of some of the novels we read, profounder than the future as a blank screen upon which we project enticing or warning visions which elicit allegorical readings: perhaps fantasy is the only medium which can convey the experience of the truly strange.  Nearly every blockbusterfilm belongs to the fantasy or science fiction genres, and they provide a training ground in recognizing the completely unfamiliar...which of course makes it familiar, but then we hunger for something even more alien.  Foreignness is a quality of the act of perceiving, one that we use in everyday life--to assess danger, find opportunity, experience wonder. 

The significance of the future is that it is the last refuge of the unknown, the one place (u-topia means "no place") where we feel comfortable, even enjoy, not knowing.  As such, it may play a crucial role in socializing people for democracy and rapid technological change.  Or, at a more local scope, it could assist in opening philosophical minds to strange new ideas, such as might occur next Tuesday.

But I'm not predicting.  ;-)


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  • Gary J.

    I felt bad that I was so agitated and behaved rudely.
    Don't really enjoy arguing/debating prefer discussing and trying to understand the other's point of view.

    On the topic of ancient civilization's world view
    1) read Saving the Appearances by Owen Barefield.
    2) Though they didn't think in terms of the "arrow of Time" nor of "causality", they did understand birth to middle age to death. They saw life as a cycle unchanging, "Nothing new under the sun" - which is from Koheleth, probably in the last part of the 3rd century BCE. So many different ideas running in Biblical lit.
    In general the ancient world view was that the Past was Golden, the present was down hill/bronze age or worse, and it was endlessly repeating with nothing of significance occurring, hence without meaning.

    Whereas the other strand in the Hebraic to Judaic Prophetic to Rabbinic worldview invented the idea that Tomorrow would be different and better, hence the first idea of "the Future".

    1 · June 5, 2014

    • Tom S.

      nor me. and I greatly appreciated your contributions to the discussion.

      1 · June 6, 2014

  • Harlan L.

    You weren't rude, Gary. I'd say appropriately insistent. I believe Plato accepted the cyclical model. I like the side of Nietzsche that rejected the Judeo-Christian prospective determinism.

    June 5, 2014

  • Harlan L.

    The give and take eas stimulating. Some new perspectives for considering the concept of the future. Especially liked the contradictions of linear versus cyclical views.

    1 · June 4, 2014

  • Andre

    Very interesting. Animated and lively.

    June 4, 2014

  • Jeff G

    My estimate is we'll have 14, which is still a lot. I'll arrive 30 minutes early, but won't be able to hold down enough space by myself. Please come early to stake out our territory in the cafe!

    June 3, 2014

    • Nathaniel G.

      Good conversation today, got a little intense at times, but still good.

      1 · June 3, 2014

  • Jay C.

    I found that old College of Marin text from the 70's, "Worlds in the Making". Alvin Toffler was ascendant, and we were grokking the future.

    May 28, 2014

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