A Life without a Future
Our relationship with time is one that continues to intrigue me (and probably you).
We divide time into past, present, and future. In reality the past was the present. And the future is what we think the next present is going to be.
We all know that the past is not what really happened, but what we remember about what happened—subjective, selective, and possibly inaccurate.
But what about the future?
The future represents the unknown that is yet to come. From the moment we’re born (or conceived) we are ushered into the unknown and the countdown begins.
Just like the foods we eat and the medicines we take, we have an expiry date. Except no one can determine with 100% accuracy when that’s going to be. That’s in the future—an elusive concept that influences how we think and live.
We might have a bright future ahead of us, or a grim one. Can we know which one will manifest?
What is the future anyway?
The future, to me, is an expectation of what will be.
Some of the expectations of the future are based on past statistics and averages. Others are influenced by society, and our own experiences and personality. All remain expectations though.
The future can be hopeful. We look forward to some wonderful things to happen. Or it can be fearful. We pray that something will never happen.
And in between the boundaries of hope and fear lie the slow, the mundane, … and most of life.
These two extremes, however, can influence how we live and what we do—by choosing to focus on what’s going to happen, we ignore what is happening. In effect we live in the future.
Future based living
When we live based on what we think the future is going to be, we forget that the future is a mind construct we created.
We choose to live based on the ideas (or fantasies) of the future that may never materialize.
We may continue to work on turning our view of the future into a reality. Or exert every ounce of energy to avoid at all costs anything that will put us in harms way.
What we’re doing, in both situations, is:
- Dictating what reality should be: We form a view and deal with the world through our rigid lens of expectation.
- Arguing with reality when things don’t work out the way we expected by rejecting, complaining, and fighting what’s taking place.
- Escaping reality when we don’t like what we’re experiencing, we keep looking forward to a future that will make us feel better. Or when we’re okay right now, but we create a phantom fear of what could happen in the future, and suffer in this moment for no reason.
The emotional rollercoaster of the future
Even if you ignore the points above, consider what thinking about the future does to our emotional and mental states.
When dreams come true, we feel euphoric and grateful. When things don’t work out, we feel sad and victimized.
The thing is: life doesn’t function based on our projections of the future. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction and it will catch us off-guard.
From experience I can tell you there were times when reality surprised me with good fortune beyond my wildest dreams.
But reality also smacked me around with devastating experiences that were beyond my worst nightmares.
In both situations my view of the future was irrelevant.
One thing we can count on is: our view of the future has nothing to do what really happens.
So what’s the point of thinking about the future when it will not change reality one iota?
Do we need the future?
Can we live our lives without something to look forward to—a child growing up, graduation, a promotion at work, finding the love of our life, a dream home, a car, and a million places on this beautiful planet to visit?
Can we work hard without the expectation of a future reward or outcome?
If we were stripped of the concept of the future, can we live a meaningful and productive life?
Maybe we need to consider the future for survival—by considering the consequences of our actions (which are future based).
Other than that our future thoughts are either moving towards or away from things that may or may not happen. Wavering between anticipation and apprehension is not the most comfortable way to live.
When we realize that the future is a creation of our mind, we can choose to let go of it, or at least not give it as much weight in how we live today.
What would happen if we lived without a future?
This is a hypothetical question. It’s hard for our human mind to wrap itself around the idea that there is no future.
Let’s assume that we don’t know what the future means and imagine how we would live this moment. Here are some thoughts.
Freedom from attachment to certain outcomes, positive or negative. We live outside the constraints of expectations and fears.
Surrender and acceptance of events as they unfold. I can’t say we will always welcome what happens. We are emotional beings and some things will break our hearts and cause us a great deal of pain. We can mourn the loss, feel the pain, and honor the life or event, but without the nagging thought of what should’ve been.
Attention to and appreciation of this moment as the only viable one we have. This is where life is happening and where it always happens.
We can freeze in the past, fixate on the future but life will move on, with us in the midst of it—whether we like it or not.
We may rely on statistics of past events and probability to set expectations of the future. But they remain expectations of an imagined future.
What is yet to come is a mystery that continues to unfold only through the reality of this moment, regardless of what we’ve imagined it to be.
We (or a loved one) may live to see this point in the future or our (their) life may be cut short. And that’s not something to fear. We can’t change it, so we might as well learn to live with it.
Instead of imagining what’s going to happen, we can focus on this moment and create the best and most beautiful one we can.
We may not be able to fully stop thinking about the future—hoping for the best or fearing the worst. But knowing that we can’t change reality, we can choose to focus less on the future and more on the present.
This is a more empowering way to live in this moment and be willing to deal with whatever comes up when it comes up—with no (or with less) ifs and buts.
One day we may realize that we will be okay without a future.
“I’d get a future if I needed one. But who does?” ~Byron Katie