Anticipation

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Not surprisingly, it comes from Latin. Also not surprisingly, it is related to expectation and hope and prediction. Surprisingly though, originally it referred to action, not passive waiting. I like this kind of words 🙂

I was considering today the difference between expectation (discussed on this blog in another article) and anticipation. The difference, I think, is at the above-mentioned action level. Expectations are sometimes inspirational, sometimes a pain in the neck, but they are concepts and ideas only, and as such they can hurt you more as it’s difficult to neutralize them. Anticipation, on the other hand, is very active, very specific and a lot easier to use than expectation. Let me explain by using at least two examples (what we would consider a positive and a negative one).

Stage fright is the most common example of negative anticipation. We worry ourselves sick, of course, if we are normal (people being in front of a group of others who are not their kin, that they can’t see well and who are not smiling in welcome – and we’re supposed to enjoy it? Ludicrous!). In other words, we have expectations of how we need to perform, then we anticipate us stumbling, forgetting the words etc. Those scenarios drive us to distraction, but more than that, unless we find a way to limit them (rituals, mindfulness, repetition…) they will come true.

That leads me to the positive anticipation, like that used by professional athletes and others for ages! Visualizing yourself winning the race, or even just running, has clear effects on the body and the mind. It is obvious we can use it in so many situations. And if sometimes that feels like cheating, just remember that negative visualization is cheating as well! That is, of course, a knee-jerk response. The way I prefer to say it is that we are thinking the future into existence, and we might as well make it a good one if we’re going to so much trouble 🙂

That leaves me to cover the most common type of anticipation, which is mostly both negative and positive. I refer, of course, to desire. Please feel free to read as much as you wish about it, to describe it as best you can, to try to reign it in as much as your belief urges you to. There are few things in this life that will move humans to greater action faster than desire. It can make us go through the entire gamut of emotions a human being can experience, including some that by rights should not even exist – sick with joy, anybody?

The feeling of rising out of the initial darkness, the escape from routine, the longing for meaning, all of them are encompassed. We truly do not know how strong we are until we deal with this particular type of anticipation. We also do not realize how complicated our lives are and how many obstacles humans create for themselves until we experience desire.

Now the question remains: should we give in to desire? And what about love? Where does love fit in with it?

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Time

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No, it’s not Latin, at least not directly. It is Old Germanic and related to tide, much as it helps us, as we cannot actually define time without running around in circles biting our tails (Ouroboros or a frisky dog, depending how seriously you want to take the notion). We can devise tools, sometimes very precise ones, to measure it, but as to what it is, well, no one really knows for sure. Is it finite or infinite? Does it flow, jump, stay or renew itself? Is the future coming to you or are you moving towards the future? Is the past unchangeable? Can time be traveled other than in memory?

We know we try to manipulate the time continuum (is it a continuum all by itself or does space gather there as well?). St Augustine thought that we have all the tools we need for time: we simultaneously grasp the past in memory, the present by attention, and the future by expectation.

Remember that old Greek myth of Khronos (personification of time) eating his children and them remaining alive and unharmed (gods, therefore immortal, and bound by prophecy – which is therefore stronger than time?) in the vastness of their father’s reach. We seem to be in time, but are we time as well? Is time sequential or, like we can in memory, escape into possibility?

Time can also struggle along even if we seem to have lost a limb of it. An amnesiac still has a present and a future, someone with short memory loss will remember his childhood and can plan for the future, an infant seems to live in an eternal past-present, with nary a thought for the future.

So many questions, for something we take so much for granted and that seems such a simple concept.

A few things seem to be outside of time. An example would be the strong feelings humans can experience. We feel those, they relate to an extant object (person, country etc.), and yet they transcend time. It is as if that relationship makes and marks its own time, limited and yet wider than the usual continuum. When we feel strongly we can work, dream, eat, raise children and follow our pathway in our time, and yet a small part of us counts a different set of seconds, one that is not ours but belongs to that object and that connects us to that object when distance alone might not make it.

And should that clock falter, our very essence is at risk.

Anniversary

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Yep, Latin again 🙂

Not as interesting, maybe, as other words have been, but anniversaries (at the turning of the years) are on my mind these days, and it seems appropriate I write this on the leap year justification day.

Once we get past Latin fractions in Roman numerals with English pronounciation (ouch!) anniversaries are about time, both perception and flow. It is about the past, and the memories associated with it.

I find anniversaries useful, convenient even. If we change, that change can come from outside (life happens, and it is rarely under our control) or inside. This type of change we can control up to a point, and it is here that we can act. And if we try to act (change is an action) then we change in response to the past, to memories, to time.

The way it happens for me is that I live my life in the present, with my assumptions and my judgements and my choices. I recognize the source of some of those, as do all of us, mostly in childhood but always in the past. Memory being selective it has already filtered out for you the routine and mundane and retained the needful to know, however obscure. But on anniversaries I have licence to actually remember how that selection has been made, and why. And remembering, as Christopher Robin implied, is not quite the re-telling of a story, and is not as vivid. Time has put a veil on the colours and one can, as I do, try to look beyond them to the full picture, with context, and from a different place on the time continuum. This where change can happen, when you look at a picture not only from your own perspective but from a time perspective. This detachment allows responsibility to shift, understanding to develop, acceptance to follow. One may find, as I do, that sometimes it was also my fault that a relationship ended. Other times it becomes clearer the action that started all the consequences one faces at present. I try (hard!) not to get into “what if” insofar as regret goes. Lessons for the future, yes. Beating myself over the past, no.

Time is said to mellow things out but what I find is that time clarifies things, and it is only by being in a different place that you accept them, therefore they do not have the power to hurt as much. If you have remained in the same place, that mellowing doesn’t actually happen. It is in the travelling on the continuum, it is in the change that detachment grows. And by detachment I mean distancing per se, in time and space. The re-telling of the story is allowed to become a remembering, and as such make space for other stories.

It is an interesting thing, that celebrating anniversaries implies the present you thinking about the past you to maintain the hopes for the future you. It is also interesting that anniversaries, when change can happen if you let it and sometimes if you will it, are actually celebrations of stability.

Whether joyful or sad, anniversaries fare better if there is a ritual, a protocol, pomp and ceremony if this is your style. The remembering has to happen and people love and live their life by the symbols they determine. So whether is is a present, or a toast, or a party, a declaration or a wink, it helps the past, always trailing in the wind of the future, to be present.

An opportunity for change…

Details

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The devil might be in them… have you noticed how much religion influences every day speech – that’s exactly the type of detail that I find endlessly fascinating! Detail is also the mainstay of mindfulness, and many an endeavour has depended on tiny things, often overlooked.

I usually advocate big picture thinking, great issues that still need thinking about, people being put in the wide world context, perspective. And the more I do the above, the more I realize that fitting in the details gives you a far better bigger image… like a digital photo, with size and quality of pixels give you a blur …or a masterpiece.

Our entire lives are made of details. Sometimes all you can do is go through one more breath. One minute when your lover is late is literally an age! If you are the tidying up sort, an entire day can pass without you breaking into a sweat doing anything major, just lots of tiny things. If you have a particular way of doing things, someone messing even a small thing can make you uncomfortable.

Details also take a long time to notice and to put into the big puzzle. In the days without computers, TV, telephone, trains, planes etc. observing details was the only way of figuring out things… and people. People would spend literally hours dissecting every move, every word, every intonation. A girl’s entire life, a man’s entire fortune could sometimes depend on those details being accurately assessed.

Predicting the future (should you wish to do so… I have made my opinion clear in a previous post) is also much more precise if you pay attention to the details. Patterns and generalities, assumptions and beliefs are all very nice, but a few details puzzled together have a better chance of being true… and useful!

And it’s that usefulness, or at least meaning, that makes paying attention to details either a waste of time or extremely pleasing. It is the big picture, the perspective, the story you make your brain believe that will kick start it into noticing the little things. Your brain is good at it as a rule, but you’ve got to help it out! You know the type of world we are living in. I read somewhere that we receive in one day the same amount of information people two centuries ago would receive in a lifetime. Your brain can’t possibly remember everything. It will try to filter (and it is helped by our technology) and sometimes will not register anything. I can spend two hours on Facebook (once a month) and not remember more than 2-3 things, even though I may have shared 7. By next day I will not remember any of those either. 🙂

You can spend a lifetime like this, and some do. When religious people complain about this generation losing meaning, they might be on to something, even though their solution is not general. Life times, as I said above, are made of details. Which ones to choose? Which ones to discard? Which filter, and when? But most importantly, why? How is my life better, richer, more fulfilling by paying attention to this particular detail?

I have been lucky – my pathway has been chosen for me. If you need a push, then the first thing is to make time (take “paying attention to” to mean “I will pay with time to focus on”) and, either alone, or with friends who matter, or family who care, figure out the horizon you want to ride your camel (or your Harley!) towards.

Then ride!

Future

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If you do this then that will happen. Linked, of course with action and consequence. And I am also advised that “if only” is a terrible expression and we should therefore strive to not only grasp opportunities as they arrive but also to make good choices. As if any of us would make bad choices if we knew the future.

However, as people, we try very hard to predict the future, and I know no psychic who ever died of hunger… except maybe the ones who were actually right. Cassandra springs to mind. I have always had a soft spot for Cassandra. The Greek myth says that she was a prophetess and as such under the protection of Apollo, a later Sun persona. As a prophetess, her word was not doubted, the only mistake could come from interpreting the notoriously mysterious messages given. But then Apollo fell in lust with Cassandra and she refused him, so he cursed her to always be true and never believed. Needless to say she went mad (was mad?) and her life went downhill from there. Greek tragedies make thrillers seem comical and horror movies seem non-sensical.

But predicting the future has another downside, as if knowing in advance what will happen is not bad enough. Even Cassandra, always true, could not do anything to prevent the future from happening. And I think that is what actually drove her mad. Assuming responsibility way beyond what human shoulders can carry. I reckon that the Greeks (and most every traditional society that had prophets… hm, that would make all of them!) put the prophets under the protection of a God/dess for the express purpose of stopping the madness from taking hold. If you are just the mouth of a God/dess then you couldn’t possibly be responsible for what you predict, in fact, it is presumptuous to do so. In some cultures you prophesy only in a trance, or under the influence of special plants, mostly hallucinogenics. The setting is carefully chosen, the people carefully prepared, sacrifices are made.

Compare this then with the current way of “predicting”. Using logic (action and consequence) only, assuming responsibility for both right and wrong prediction, blamed for the choices people make based on those predictions… does that sound to you as a recipe for disaster? And let’s not think of the ones who make religious/financial/eschatological prophecies. Take people in every-day life, trying to predict whether to marry, buy a car, have a baby, change jobs, invest, buy a house. All sort of choices. Go to university, it’s the only way to get a good job. Start your own business, it’s the only way to be free. Save for retirement, you never know when the super will become unmanageable. Send your child to private school, so he can have a good future.

And if you don’t? You should have done this, if you’d have done this none of this would have happened, silly! There is no shortage of people who will point out “if only”’s. And, without a God/dess, without salvia and mushrooms, with no sacrifices made and no questions properly asked, what do we get?

Blame and guilt, of course, what else.

To what purpose? It doesn’t seem to teach us anything. Not even when we are lucky.

I’ll ponder this while I ask my question of the Tarot.