Imprisoned by the Future?

I stumbled upon this compelling article and wanted to share a snippet of it on Total Prana. The question posed is: Are you imprisoned by your future?  Although the article approaches the topic from a Buddhist rebirth framework, the notion of perception creating reality is palpable regardless of spiritual path. From my perspective the American cultural myths not only fail to inspire, they also do not lead to happiness or contentedness.  Being open to alternative world views may hold the key for some of us.

behind-bars21“To understand this imprisonment, think back to 1979. In a speech announcing his run for the presidency, Ronald Reagan invoked an idea at the heart of our way of life. He told his audience that Americans, unlike people everywhere else, live in a constant state of anticipation because they know the future “will be a great place.” In the decades following this speech, much about the United States has changed, but in 2013 a very different president, Barack Obama, still chose “Faith in America’s Future” as the theme of his second inaugural address. This continuity was no accident: for centuries, the entire Western world—but especially the United States—has believed that history is leading us to some version of a heaven on earth, an article of faith that has its sources in messianic Judaism, Christian end-time theology, and Puritan ideas about predestination. What we call the “modern era” began when preparations for Christ’s return assumed a new and revolutionary form as technological control over the whole of Creation. Progress, innovation, development, growth—these became the new Commandments. And personal salvation was reimagined as the competitive pursuit of material success. . .

“The dream of progress is just another way of trying to be better than everyone else, but the Buddha taught we will always remain equals in the most basic sense: none of us—as isolated selves—will ever manage to escape from sickness, old age, and death. Denying such an elemental truth can only make us strangers to ourselves, and to everybody else. If we recoil from this humanness, then we will probably close our eyes to the humanness of other people as well, especially their experience of suffering. And this insight points us to what may be the most import aspect of rebirth. Only by accepting the suffering of others as our own responsibility can we bring ourselves back from the realm of the preta, the “hungry ghosts” trapped between the living and dead by their unmet needs—needs they can only meet by taking care of others first. When we acknowledge that suffering is our common ground, we can sometimes feel as though everyone we see has been our mother, father, daughter, or son in a previous incarnation. Rebirth might seem to feed our egos, promising that we will come back again, but all our good deeds this time around are going to benefit future human beings who won’t even know our names. We ourselves won’t ever know who we were. Needless to say, this line of thinking conflicts with our competitive, future-obsessed culture. Rebirth as a myth or metaphor, which is part of a larger architecture of the mind, asks us to resist the pressure to believe that the future will deliver or redeem us. It reminds us that we are bound to everyone, and that by helping others we discover an unacknowledged, undervalued part of ourselves. A teaching that has caused so much embarrassment to modern, skeptical Westerners might turn out to be the one we most need to hear if we want to change the way we live now.”       -Kurt Spellmeyer, “Rediscovering the Meaning of Rebirth,” Tricycle

View the article in its entirely here.

As always, take what works for you and leave the rest behind.



About Lightning Heart (Vikara)

Nomad. Poet. Philosopher. Teacher. View all posts by Lightning Heart (Vikara)

One response to “Imprisoned by the Future?

  • Gia

    Just realized that this title works well for the situation I am in…feeling imprisoned by the future, thinking, hoping, this ‘wonderful change’ may happen soon. And when I look around, at all the blogs and articles pointing towards ‘wave X’ and other miraculous things happening to earth and humanity… so many of us are living (in one way or another) in anticipation of something ‘great’ happening. We all know better. Live in the now. But for some reason, the NOW isn’t that easy to be in.
    This may not be exactly what the post was aimed at but the title just spoke to me in that way…
    I didn’t find the time to comment the first time I saw it. So here are my two cents worth


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