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The Shortest Distance Between the Past and the Future is Now January 16, 2006

Posted by Yvonne in Distinctions, Frameworks and Focus, Word in Action.

The title is one of those lines that came to me one word at a time … sometimes it’s like that — I find I have to be willing to listen without knowing what’s coming next.

I’d said it to a friend, and he asked me for the line again, so I thought I’d expound a bit – that’s was the start of this post.

Whew! And here’s a second edit … this sure bloomed into something deeper than it started as … YMB

Past and Future? Some say there is no past, there is no future, there’s only now.

It sure seems like there’s a past – I do find myself thinking and talking about it alot. It sure seems like there’s a future – we’re certainly dreaming and wondering, scheming and operating as if there is.

What’s curious is that all that conversation is usually about stuff that isn’t – isn’t yet or isn’t any longer.

So “what is” is left to now – but we don’t deal with that much.

We really don’t get the point.


How to get the point: Easy way: look at your feet. See where you actually are in the world, in life. Look – don’t think. Measure – don’t guess. Ask others what they see – don’t remember or wish. Listen – don’t interpret or wonder. Listen to what you are actually saying, and what others are actually saying – the words themselves. Look them up in the dictionary. See what you are actually doing – not what you mean to do or plan to do. Check the results. If you can’t point to it, it ain’t there.

But what if I don’t like it? Good news: It’s still just a point.

Dealing: Some say dissolve the past, create a compelling future and that will pull you forth. Some say all you need are clear goals. Some say hang tight, it’s all happening on it’s own and anything you try to “do” will just muck up destiny. Life is perfect, hang out at the point and let it roll.

But say you have an idea to create something, and it’s not what you have going now …

Seems to me that when it looks like the past (the first point) and the future (the second point) are not on a line, we’re really saying that where we are now is the way it finally turned out: we are out of line – and we are not happy. When things look bad, we forget that we’ve still got a point, a future to aim for.

It is the way it is because it got that way … we never turned.

The power of a third point: My new math: Two points make a line; three confirm it. So when things aren’t going our way, when it looks like we’re not getting from one point to another, what we really need is a third point which “bends reality” so our first and second points are on a line.

Think of the inflection point at the base of a curve – that point at which things shift and start to go in another direction. Something happens at that third point, and in the direction of the second point, that makes the line wholly new. It gets things headed in another direction, from where things had been … through how it looks now (however off kilter) … to where they will be.

That’s the kind of point we need. One where, magically, we’re still in line and can get from where we’ve been to where we’re going via where we are just fine.

Any point can be a third point, but only if you’re there.

If you are looking from anywhere else than now and trying to make that point a third point, the turn ain’t happening. Mostly that’s because wherever you are coming from is a point that isn’t – isn’t yet and isn’t any longer. But when you have gotten the point where you are now, and can create that point as a third point, an inflection point in time along the trajectory to your future, only then can you then make the next point on a wholly new line from what trajectory was formerly inevitable.

And anyone can make a point.

How to make a point: Well, first – it certainly is “making” something – that means doing something. And, as it turns out, almost anything will do – as long as you know you are making a point. Even if all you do is get up out of your chair or call your mom and say you love her or take out the trash or let your friend know that you have decided. Curiously, you can even “don’t just do something, stand there” – that actually works too.

Where to make a point: Curiously, this kind of making of a point has to be done in the world, not in one’s head. I found out by looking in the dictionary that commitment is action; one commits by taking action. Until there is action, technically, there is no actual commitment.

How making a point works: Making a point in the world and in time creates something. It bends reality into a particular trajectory from an imagined past to an imagined future. Don’t ask me how this works. I just know that it does. I think it might work because of where you are looking when you’re making that point in time. With that idea of creating something, maybe you’re using the “between” space to make a conscious choice – that’s the turn.

So making your point is the same thing as taking your turn.

And then, I suppose, you just make the next point …

For Future Inquiry: Living as “a mosaic of moments”: how much is a moment? For how long can one actually live and know it?


1. Conscious Connections » Where Oh When? - January 16, 2006

[…] Shortest Distances […]

2. billdaul - January 17, 2006


Brilliant observations/brain dumps…thank for the exposure into your mind. Also I love your quote, “The shortest distance between the past and the future is now.”.


3. Yvonne - January 17, 2006

Glad you enjoyed. Took me awhile to get that one out.

Sometimes I wonder if the brain dump is brilliant or merely entertaining – thanks for the encouragement. Y

4. Jay Cross - February 25, 2006

Yvonne, you’re probably aware of this, but the “now” we experience is illusory. That now always comes after the fact. (We need a bit of processing to be aware of anything.) The real now, the stuff an atomic clock measures, never stands still long enough to be an instant, either. It’s like Xeno’s paradox: you always have further to go.

5. Yvonne - March 3, 2006

Yes, I can see that. I had wondered now and then, how long was a moment, but never resolved it. Like how big is a point on a line …

So now then, when we say the moment, “the real now never stands still long enough” we’re speaking as if it is moving. But is it? Is the “now” moving? What is that “now” that is moving and in which direction?

Is it possible that the now, a particular configuration of stuff in relationship in space (and including points consciousness as some of the “stuffs”) might not move at all? Perhaps it’s (that is, all “nows”) all “there” some theoretical locality of being, and only our awareness, as distinct from consciousness, moves. And this we call the arrow of time …??

6. jaycross - March 3, 2006

Time is so fundamental to the way we’ve been programmed that it’s near impossible to get your arms around. Julian Barbour and others suggest that we move from one slice of all-time to another; all slices exist in the eternal breadbox — II don’t buy it.

Stephen Hawking and his theoretical physics pals speculate that time is reversible. Okay, but that’s like Black Holes and quarks and other things that are totally outside my experience. Show me. But then I’m a guy who thinks String Theory is akin to reading tea leaves to see the future. http://abu9.blogspot.com/2004/11/string-theory.html

Maybe time’s a total illusion. We live in a town named for Bishop Berkeley who would have said that everything is an illusion: it’s all whatever God was thinking, nothing more.

William James did some of the initial research on this. I’ll ping you if I can locate the reference.

If you have time to burn (so to speak):

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