In the predawn darkness setting off to the parking lot to drive to work, a car’s headlights stab through the dim street. So I wait for it to pass before crossing. About the same time a solitary walker comes to the intersection ahead of me, distracting the internal monologue of my early morning thoughts. Then it occurs to me: the interior monologue of moments before, when I was moving about indoors, has been replaced by the events of the cold morning darkness. All that seemed important and worth filling my mind with then vanished; something out of one’s (forward facing) sight is also something out of one’s mind. The lived experience is compartmentalized and that which no longer appears in the “right now” box simply disappears.
This same sort of forward-facing consciousness is true also of one generation’s lifetime and (lack of) consciousness. Others have written of the Native American vision of 7 generations: consider the 3 generation that came before one’s own, as well as the 3 that will follow one’s own, before taking consequential action or making a big decision. But for the immigrant nation of USA, at least, each generation strides the Earth as if for the first time, relegating all those who came before (and those to follow in future times) to a static limbo of inconsequence or non-existence, perhaps. As a result of this present-only vision, those alive now preoccupy themselves with what is today and what is new and next. Conveniently there is no baggage from what came before; at least that is the thinking. In truth, of course, there is little new under the sun. And one cannot engage in civilization that has no inherited attitudes, methods, infrastructure or ideals.
And so while we today and those of other times, places, languages or ethnic worlds may view the space and time they occupy as “their oyster” (to do with according to their will), in fact all are connected; possibly at the level of Arthur Lovejoy’s writings in The Great Chain of Being. At the very least the forward-facing vision we grow accustomed to seems to predispose a way of thinking that is oriented to now and that which comes next, rather than consciousness that sweeps in the full context of past – present – future.