[foresight] oversight [hindsight]
All of us live in a tension called time.
This is a tension we cannot escape but a tension that if harnessed can lead to our flourishing, our wholeness and our maturity – if not harnessed it can impact our expectations, our ability to think and even the skills with which we tackle our daily lives.
In time and over time all things change. From the renewal of our skin, to the changing seasons, to relationships that ebb and flow, to the tree that every year is never quite the same, to children that grow up to embrace their own lives.
Things change all the time, and always have. Change is seen in the cycles within cycles and circles within circles that make up each of our individual lives and also of our lives together. The context for change is not just ‘me’ – it is also ‘us’. The tension that is time is made up of many circles and many cycles. The nature of the changes we experience are part of the cycles and circles that we are born into, caught up into and live within. It is not so much that there are more or less circles and cycles to our lives today than there were in the past – the difference is more pronounced in the types of circles and cycles that are experienced and have been experienced that make our experience today, and the experience of those in the past, unique.
Three thoughts come to mind in describing the change in the types of circles and cycles we experience today – as well as three negative impacts these have had on us, both individually and together.
Firstly, in many places we are more separated from the cycle of life and death than any other generation in history. Whereas death was an integral part of the live of every family and community through many, many ages today it is experienced far less often and as a result we are often far less prepared for it, it takes us by surprise. We don’t expect it, we cannot deal with it – we think it is foreign to us.
We lack the skills to deal with those things from which we are removed.
Secondly, we have also moved further and further away from the circles and cycles of the land – the cycles of the seasons. The cycle of the seasons in the past determined many of the ways that we lived, the things we did – even the food we ate. While many parts of the world are still caught up in these ‘organic’ cycles much of the world seeks to escape them. We have built systems and mechanisms to insulate us from the impact of the cycles of the seasons. We are more and more removed from Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Less and less do these seasons enter our thinking, mould our expectations, fashion the cycles and circles of our lives.
We battle to accommodate in our thinking and our deciding those things that are far from us – that we do not deal with, or live in all the time.
Thirdly, we are closer than ever before to cycles and circles of our own making! The cycles and circles of the economy – the booms and busts – often feature most prominently in our thinking and consideration. The manufactured cycles of supply and demand drive many of our personal buying (and selling) decisions. The pursuit of novelty over our real needs has shaped many of our expectations and handed over the initiative to those who can design and build cycles and circles that cater to these flighty, ever-shifting currents of desire.
We have given up the ability (and too often the desire) to shape our own cycles and circles – those that can lead to flourishing and wholeness and maturity.
How can we respond?
Approaching life in this tension called time and resolving the ‘skill challenge’, the ‘thinking challenge’ and the ‘shaping challenge’ requires a time-based approach that includes anticipation, embracing and learning.
Anticipation looks ahead – not just to what is coming, but also to what we expect to accomplish, to where we desire to be. Anticipation deals with the future. Anticipation utilises it own unique set of skills – skills of thinking, skills of imagination, skills of testing, examining and refining our expectations. Anticipation requires foresight.
Embracing deals with the now – with what we face day-by-day as we live it. Embracing deals with now. Embracing entails the exercise of a specific set of skills – skills of engagement, skills of connecting, skills of entering and enjoying our experiences. Embracing requires oversight.
Learning (among other things) looks back. It asks questions, it analyses, it seeks to understand. Learning often deals with the past. Learning requires its own unique set of skills – skills of analysis, skills of searching, skills of distinguishing, understanding and joining the dots. Learning requires hindsight.
To live healthily in this tension called time we need to – both individually and together – develop and use the skills of foresight, oversight and hindsight.