Friday, February 04, 2011

The Future in Us

"We say that Nature rests, yet she is working like mad. She has only shut up shop and pulled the shutters down, but behind them she is unpacking new goods, and the shelves are becoming so full that they bend under the load. This is the real spring; what is not done now (in November) will not be done in April. The future is not in front of us, for it is here already in the shape of a seed; already it is within us; and what is not with us will not even be in the future. We don't see seeds because they are under the earth; we don't know the future because it is within us. Sometimes we seem to smell of decay, encumbered by the faded remains of the past; but if only we could see how many fat and white shoots are pushing forward in the old tilled soil, which is called the present day; how many seeds germinate in secret; how many old plants draw themselves together and concentrate into a living bud, which one day will burst into flowering life - if we could only see that secret swarming of the future within us, we should say that our melancholy and distrust is silly and absurd, and that the best thing of all is to be a living man - that is, one who grows." - Karel Capek, The Gardener's Year

"The future is not in front of us, for it is here already in the shape of a seed; already it is within us; and what is not with us will not even be in the future." I become more intrigued with Capek the more I read him; he has a very understated way of presenting big truths deceptively packaged as common items.

He's right, of course: the future is within us. Not the big, life altering future outside of us of course: that we cannot control in the sense that I cannot control the car that careens into me or the layoff that occurs beyond my control.

But the future does lie within each of us in terms of how we react and what we become.

As has been oft said, we cannot control events but only our responses to them. Our responses will determine our future - not just in terms of actions and courses (If I do this, I will end up here) but in terms of our own feelings and inner selves. If I choose to react negatively to everything, eventually I will become negative. If I choose to react positively to everything, eventually I will become positive. And these feelings and our inner selves will of themselves influence how we act and how others act towards us - again, our future.

Becoming is an equally important aspect - but it goes far beyond the negativity and positivity discussed above. Like a plant, I will eventually become what is in me and is in my environment (plants start out with seeds (genetic material); they get soil, water and sunlight and maybe a little manure. That's it). If I want to become, oh say a writer, I had better start writing now because 10 years from now if I am not writing at all, I will never be one. These things are seldom spontaneous.

Likewise anything that we want to be or do or become needs to have the initial beginnings - the seed - put in the ground of our souls long before we will see any activity. Like the seed, we will work and work and feel like we aren't really accomplishing anything - while all the time those seeds are below the surface, sending out roots of their own to wrap around our very souls. Even when the first shoots come out - when the first blog post goes up or the first conversation happens in another language or the draw and cut of Iaido comes almost smoothly -we will still feel that we are not really accomplishing anything but a waste of effort for little result. But when the future is in full bloom - the book published, the language mastered to the point of spontaneous poetry, the Iaido kata performed hayanuki-style in a series smoothly and without effort - the effort that was put in will suddenly either seem worth it or may subside in our memory altogether. Like the flower, others will enjoy the end result - and not think of how hard the flower had to work to get from a seed to the point of being an object of beauty.

Like gardeners, we need to consider that tomorrow's harvest will not occur without today's planting. Are we sowing the seeds of our future today and every day, or will we awake in spring to the bare ground of the garden we never took the time to cultivate?

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