… how past and future flipped their meaning …

Painting by Theodor Severin Kittelsen

I noticed that since the lockdown of active living was brought in to control the spread of the Corona virus … the isolation from social engagement has affected children and the elderly in different ways.

The middle group, people who kept our social systems functioning, deserve deep gratitude. The work pressure surely involved intense stress and risk-taking.

As for children and young people, bursting with energy and hungry for experiences, I felt for them, being trapped in often cramped homes, while having their future projects halted. No rite of passage events, no opportunity to find their tribe, dreams lost in a distant mist, a mirage on the horizon, where sky and land meet. Recalling my own childhood and youth, I find it hard to imagine the sense of futility and sheer frustration. Some kids will have coped better with this situation than others, not least because there is now the internet, zoom, and generally the disembodied metaverse to engage with, but to what end, when bodies become redundant?

The elderly, to which I belong, for whom work and social engagement may have slowed, and then jolted to a standstill during the past few years, have at least the advantage of a rich and often meaningful past. At best, they can make use of an enforced solitude to regain contact with the unconscious, travel inwards, and use the overview from a distance to lift and re-weave the threats of their lived experience.

From where I observed the young and old sections of society, it seems that past and future flipped their meaning in relation to the expansion of consciousness, and, dare I say it, soul-making, which requires the organic experience. Compared to a bland future, the past holds abundant treasures for the imagination, and an almost luminous creativity. 

As long as I remember I felt a desire to deepen my understanding of time and space, nature, human behaviour, the sciences, people’s perception and differences, the collective psyche … to which end I travelled to seek adventures, read countless books and studied many subjects, some of them formally, like philosophy, spiritual traditions, psychology, mythology, art, photography, film and video, each time meeting interesting and inspiring groups and ideas. I was too involved with people to value the poems and stories I wrote, until my introspection flowed into a novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ and a soon-to-be sequel, ‘Shapers.’.  

I’m presently reading Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities,’ a dreamlike dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo about imagined or memorised cities. A sentence I came upon yesterday sparked this post …

“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living … “

This does not yet apply, but I get it. During the last three decades I lost over 20 dear friends, including my parents, not taking into account writers and public figures I admired. Grief meanders freely in my mind, is palpable, and unavoidable. Yet, due to their influence, all significant people that died during these last three decades live on in my psyche.

While my physical engagement with people has slowed these last years, time itself has dizzyingly sped ahead, which, for me, is enough reason to resurrect the embodied insights of past decades, if only to defy a sensational but boringly flat metaverse. Young people might of course have a totally different view.

Several themes were on my mind to write about here this month, until this curious thought of a reverse past/future junction came up last night. So I wonder if my reflections resonate with some of my readers, especially those of you in the second half of their lives.

My week living in a cave on the island of Elba


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14 responses to “… how past and future flipped their meaning …

  1. Yeshen Venema

    Some sections are repeated below. X

    We made it safe to Copenhagen. Lovely hotel looking forward to restful sleep!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bartl Jenny

    Dearest Ashen
    I so much feel the same
    Zurück geworfen auf mich selbst
    Tauche ich in die Tiefen meines selbst
    Und meines Lebens und beginne mich leise zu spüren und ich finde mich im Raum meines Herzens in der Sehnsucht im ungeliebten und ungelebten in der Freude und dem Schmerz
    Und in allen facetten meines Lebens und Seins
    Es gilt „ja“ zu sagen zu allem ausnahmslos
    Und mich diesem Ja
    Hinzugeben ja ,das bin ich das habe ich gelebt
    Das habe ich versäumt , da habe ich gelitten und geträumt …. lassen nicht hassen
    Frieden finden nicht urteilen
    Im Herzen ruhen immer und immerwieder
    Ja wir hinterlassen den Jungen viel
    Und schweres … wie mutig und stark sie sind trotz aller Entbehrungen ich verbeuge mich vor Ihnen
    Danke liebe Ashen wohin deine Zeilen mich geführt haben take good care and be well Love

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny, Love, dank dir, so good to have you visit here and to read your lines.
      In die Tiefe tauchen, ja, und lassen nicht hassen.
      Da muss wieder Platz werden fur das Weistum des Alters, es ist wie eine Geburt ins Unbekante, wo sich neue Wunder auftun.

      It pleases me and warms my heart to see my son maintaining friendships with the children of my friends he grew up around. These young people turned out strong and creative. And despite the dire state of the world they practice a positive attitude. Bewundernswert.
      Ich denk an Dich..Sei umarmt und guter Dinge, Ashen


  3. Rob L

    Thanks for your post Ashen.
    As always your reflections are well expressed and provide a stimulus for further reflections on my part.
    For me the Covid thing with its lockdowns, tragedies, fear, delusions and increased uncertainty about both the personal and collective future have indeed caused me to reflect extensively on my life up to now.
    However at the same time I find that I have been prompted to become more deeply and widely engaged with the most prominent factors in the world which is apparently external to me…..most noticeably with my volunteering in support of asylum seekers and refugees as well as with my Zulu spiritual family…..and come to think of it, with my own natural family in Australia and the USA too.
    These threads seem to feed into and enhance each other in the sense that what is happening in my relationship with the external world enriches my introspections on the past……. and vice versa. Maybe this is just a slightly different way of saying what you are saying.


    • Thanks for your visit, Rob. Been thinking of you.
      Hope you managed to see your son, back in his pilot job, on his stopover in London. The very relevant work you’re doing with asylum seekers must surely be rewarding.
      I treasure the rare face to face moments with people these days. And there is always the online communication with people we care for.
      Yes, I think our life-experiences deepened in recent years.
      Presently I’m editing again, having received new feedback notes on the MS of ‘Shapers,’ which is nearing completion. I could not have found the time for this passion of writing in my busy past.


  4. So much of this resonated with me, especially the line about Invisible Cities. What a stunning book, and how real.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A thoughtful and introspective blog post, Ashen. I teach high school students and while we’ve been fortunate in Australia and in my state Western Australia, the impact of COVID has escalated mental health problems. The long term effects are not yet determined but I do hope, as my grandmother dealt with as a little girl in Italy in the 1920s the long memory of the Spanish Flu and the fallout from that pandemic in Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel we are lucky as the older generation to have all our memories that we can recall in times like this. For me as I get older recalling the past has freed me from boredom many times over the last couple of years. However this is also tinged with times of sadness at the people I have also lost over the years. What surprises me though is the ability to transform thoughts and ideas and to continue to see hope for the present and future.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Gillian,
    Your words bring to mind some lines from an Emily Dickinson poem …

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all ….

    Liked by 1 person

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