Saturday, February 16, 2013

Orientation Toward the Future

Alles Vergängliche
All passing things

Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
Are merely symbol;

Das Unzulängliche,
The unattainable

Hier wird’s Ereignis;
Here turns event;

Das Unbeschreibliche,
The indescribable,

Hier ist’s getan;
Here it is done;

Das Ewig-Weibliche
The Eternal Feminine

Zieht uns hinan.
Draws us along.

   [Goethe, Faust]

In Viktor Frankl’s meaning-oriented psychotherapy—he called it logotherapy—the highest level of the human being is the spiritual; it strives for meaning. The lower levels, the somatic and the psychic, represent forces that push us to achieve physical and social ends in the here and now, but meanings exerts a pull on us. And in the process of following our innate perception of something beyond us, we look to the future.

It struck me this morning that using one of the time dimensions (thus past, present, and future) does not express the longing for meaning that we feel adequately. To the extent that it does, future must be understood as something that we never actually achieve while we are on this plane. The future acts on us in a mysterious way, but it disappears precisely as it arrives. It turns into the present. And as the present fades with the same mysterious diminution into the past, that which has been and that which is yet to come can both be viewed under the species of eternity. Quite consistently, Frankl views the achievement of values in the present; and once realized, they are permanently saved in the past—which is immune to the forces of the flux in which we actually live, the Now.

The notions—these contrasts between what we are, what we seek, and what we actually achieve—reward the effort to contemplate them. Flickers, glimmers, bright sparks of intuition arise in us that we are not really time-bound creatures at all but beings of another order experiencing here and now a novel process in the experience of which we grow as souls.

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