David's Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however, the material is ©2018 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters, please let us know at info@Lorian.org.
February, 2018 - LIFE EXPECTANCY
My friend and Lorian colleague, Rue Hass, an exceptional counselor and teacher, sent me an interesting email the other day in response to some writing that I’m doing. Here is what she said:
I’ve been hearing on the news that for the first time in a long time the life expectancy rate is going down in the US, especially for men, as the opioid crisis continues to ravage the nation.
When I hear this news, I am captured by the phrase “life expectancy.” Of course, in common usage it means how long people can expect to live, on average. But the poignant deeper sense cries out to me of our diminishing expectations of what a life can hold. I think we as humans are losing our vision of possibility for our lives, for life itself. A diminishing life expectancy.
I was struck by this because I’ve been having similar thoughts about how we think of ourselves in relationship to the future. In the early Seventies, one of the first professional futurists, Frederick Polak, wrote an important book called The Image of the Future. It was a historical study of various images of the future and of the cultures that held them. He demonstrated that when a society or a culture lost its image of the future, it went into decline and eventually collapsed. He warned that this was the situation in which our culture was finding itself. We were losing—or had lost—our image of the future.
What Polak meant by an “image of the future” was not simply expectations about what tomorrow might bring or anticipation of new technologies. He was careful to draw a distinction between a “true” image of the future and an image of progress. The latter, more often than not, was really an image of the past projected into the future; life would go on as we know it, but it would get better and better. An example would be the television show Star Trek. It certainly presented a picture of a future civilization—and an optimistic picture, at that—but everything in that show was simply a projection of what we already knew. Yes, the technology was advanced, but the people weren’t. The world of Star Trek was a familiar world (necessary, of course, if television audiences in the Sixties were going to relate to it).
Polak defined an “image of the future” not as a prophecy or expectation of any form the future might take but rather as an exuberant embrace of the future itself as a horizon of possibility calling out the creative, exploratory, confident spirit of the society. The form of the future didn’t have to be familiar; it didn’t have to be simply a continuation of what was already known or being done. The power of the image of the future was that it opened doors of potential; it confronted the society with the unknown but in a welcome and anticipatory way. The future would be better not necessarily because it would be filled with improvements over the present but because it was the product of the society’s creativity and spirit of discovery. Who knew what wonders might unfold? Who knew what people might create? How exciting to look forward to finding out!
Polak was confirming through his historical study what common sense would tell us: a society grows when people are filled with a spirit of possibility and potential, when they have, as my friend Rue pointed out, “life expectancy.”
We are plagued in our time by a sense of diminishing possibilities. Climate change, political dysfunction, economic disparities, dwindling resources, the sense that our children and grandchildren will not inherit a better world than the one we were born into: all these things drain away our image of the future, in Polak’s terms. They reduce our expectations of what life can bring and of what can be accomplished.
The key behind what Polak observed through his studies is that possibility does not lie in the realm of events alone but in ourselves. A powerful image of the future that inspires and excites is not about what we can expect in the world but about what we can expect of ourselves. Hope is not wishful thinking of what we would like to happen; it’s about opening the doors of imagination and creativity to bring new ideas and new behaviors into being. It’s recognizing that we can embrace the future because we can embody and bring forth possibilities.
Whatever our physical life expectancy, we can expand our expectancy of life and of ourselves and in the process transform our world with a new image of the future.
From March 1-28, join David Spangler for Subtle Energies I: Standing Whole. In this four-week class, David will guide participants as they explore the subtle sides of their natures. Understanding this aspect of yourself and learning to integrate its capacities in daily life is a key to being whole. Class will be held on our online educational website, Lorian Education, where materials can be accessed 24/7. Additionally, David will host five live webinars that participants can also download for their personal use. For more information and to register, click here.