Growing up in the Age of Plastics, i.e. the 1960’s and 70’s, in an old fashioned English–from–England speaking household in Canada, we boys learned a word that used to be common but is rarely used these days: “shall”. Now “shall” was the proper way to refer to a contemplated action in the future. So, sitting around the dining table with my family, young legs still dangling off the thatch covered chair, I was often remonstrated for the incorrect usage of the word “will” vs. “shall”. When we used “will”, it implied an immediate action, like “Will you pass me the maple syrup, please?” If say, we’d run out of it, then a future event was referred to thusly: “I shall get some syrup at the store today.” And “syrup” was added to the list of future actions. Did I say “future actions?” How novel!
Future tense words (invented by the ancient Greeks, it seems) were just a few of the subtle ways we were raised to think about our life “going forward” as my parents would say. We learned to bundle a prospective event scheduled to happen in two weeks as happening “in a fortenight”. So, by simply and innocently using these words about a “future” event, we constructed a Future (and a “Past” but that’s another story.) We filled this future with our hopes and expectations, banal and otherwise.
Indeed, I lived for the day when, short term, I shall have an ice cream, and, mid-term, I shall get a new bike and, long term, I shall be somebody, shall do something great, shall have someone special! Ah, The Shall Games we play with our little Plans!
It’s not that planning is a bad thing, or even not useful; it’s more that the concept of a “future” is only in our minds, collectively and as individuals. We’re freighted with our ideas about the future when, in truth, there is no such critter. There is only Now. A very intimate, moment – to – moment now. The trick, of course, is to recognize this, to abandon planned futures and to meet our life not “head” on – with our minds – but directly, as it is, now. And that’s where the truth comes in –often like a wrecking ball that demolishes our wall of illusions! But sometimes, truth may tip-toe in like a quiet invited guest who sits in the corner of our awareness and gently reminds us of our true nature.
Fortunately (though it’s often not seen and appreciated at the time) the hardly real “future” of what we think shall be, is hit with the really hard truth of what is. And a not – so – funny thing also often happens in our life after this un-elected de-construction: we set out on a new re-construction called “Spirituality”. I did, for over twenty years! Indeed, most of Spirituality, especially in its traditional, ritual, formulated and institutionalized expressions, is a construction project. And that’s OK too, because sooner or later, we can be sure that our illusions – powerful as they may seem – will encounter reality. A reality that may be served up at lifes’ table hot or cold, but always fresh-as-now and never stale as tomorrow!
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