On Future as the source of energy for Present

If you have read my last letter, you already know about my plans for the “Sonnets in Colour” website in general, and this blog in particular. In short, I will be working more on the static (non-blog) component of the website, while the blog will transform into the studio journal it was always meant to become (rather than just a temporary container for essays intended for the static part of the site). So if you want to follow the evolution of this static part (which will be more like an evolving book than a blog), I’d love you to subscribe to the newsletter.

With this clarification, on to my studio journal.

Lena Levin. Le Petit Prince. 20"×16". 2012.
Lena Levin. Le Petit Prince. 20″×16″. 2012.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about future, much more than usual (it doesn’t mean I haven’t been painting — this process is essential for my well-being and overall sanity, whatever else I do). In recent years, I’ve grown increasingly addicted to living in the present, but there is no contradiction here — and that’s what this post is about.

In a sense, it’s a follow-up from my last week’s post about sonnets fifty and fifty one, where I arrived at the metaphor of future as nesting Matryoshka dolls, all contained in the present. This metaphor, and its (as it were) “practical” repercussions, have been incubating in my mind the whole week. I want to share the result with you, in case you might find it helpful in your own life. There is nothing new here, strictly speaking, but somehow I found the nesting dolls metaphor extremely useful for visualising these ideas.

So let’s imagine four nesting dolls (I’ve given them names, so that — if abbreviated to their initial letters — this whole little theory of mine would read “P-L-A-Y”).

The largest one, containing them all, is the present — your here and now. Let’s call this doll YOU.

The smallest one, hidden deep inside YOU, is a greatest, brightest dream you can imagine. Let’s call it PARADISE.  You can imagine this Paradise, even if imperfectly, but you have not the slightest idea how this future can come to pass; it is something barely possible, or might even seem downright impossible. The only important thing about it is that the very image, however imperfect and unrealistic, creates a kind of fire within, a wave of energy and joy, the sensation of being fully alive (just like it happens in the fifty first sonnet — in winged speed no motion shall I know).   

It’s not a “goal” (let alone “smart goal”), because you have no idea how to get there. And even though you can imagine this future, and yourself in it, it feels like daydreaming — and it’s quite likely that it will never happen exactly the way you imagine it. But it doesn’t matter. The purpose of this dreamy bright future is just to sit there deep within you, not as a goal, but as a source of energy (or motivation, in more practical terms).

Lena Levin. Sonnet 59: That I might see what the old world could say. 2014
Lena Levin. Sonnet 59: That I might see what the old world could say. 2014

I think we naturally have something like Paradise within in childhood, but many of us gradually lose this innermost “doll” as we grow up, and the future turns from the source of energy to the source of anxiety.

And, let’s face it, the imaginable future inevitably grows shorter as one grows older, and thus it might seem increasingly ridiculous to dream up something you don’t know how to achieve. And yet the whole point of the Paradise doll is its presence (within the present). It is something to reimagine from time to time, not something to attach any specific plans or timeframes to. Just reimagine and then let go.

So what about two intermediate dolls?

I’ll call one of them LEAD (not in the sense of “metal”, but “lead” as an initiative in action; to tell you the truth, I just haven’t found anything more appropriate which would start with “L”). It’s not unlike Paradise, but bigger and more easily “visible”, less deeply hidden. This future might feel more like a goal: something you know, or at least have some idea, how to achieve. You can imagine it in a more detailed and realistic way and it certainly feels possible. There can be, of course, many Lead-like dolls nested within one another (but not too many; otherwise, the whole metaphor deteriorates into obsessive planning).

And the other, still bigger one, I’ll call ARIEL. Ariel is almost as big as YOU — its the future of the next moment, the one that is becoming the present right now: for me as I am writing this and getting to the next sentence, and for you as you are reading it and your eyes glide to the next line. In short, it’s the future that flows directly and immediately out of the present, the one which is (almost) fully within your conscious control.

The key aspect of my Matryoshka doll metaphor is, of course, nesting: my dolls contain one another. In other words, they are all aligned. It is only if they are aligned that the innermost one, the image of Paradise, really works as the source of energy for the present. In this present, in the hear and now, Ariel can either be aligned with Paradise or not, and it fully depends on YOU.

Lena Levin. Magdalene (after Boris Pasternak and Marc Chagall). 2014
Lena Levin. Magdalene (after Boris Pasternak and Marc Chagall). 2014

The thing is, even if I don’t know the roadmap to Paradise, even if I can barely see it, it is still very easy to feel whether Ariel is aligned with it or not.

In this particular here and now, I know with certainty that if Ariel is still writing this post, it is aligned with my personal Paradise — but if I succumb to the occasional temptation to browse Internet, then it isn’t. See, it’s only if my Ariel still contains my Paradise that Paradise is right here within my present. Paradise not really a future, its the innermost part of the present. If I stray away, it dissolves into thin air, it simply doesn’t exist anymore.

As for you, if you are reading this (still reading!) just because you have succumbed to a similar temptation, then maybe your Ariel is calling you back to what you were doing before that? Here, I’ve done it: have you ever read a blog post which would in effect advise you to stop reading itself?

But if — just if — this reading feels like it may help you align YOU, your Ariel, your Lead(s) and your own Paradise, then this post has fulfilled its purpose.

By the way, it might seem that I am advocating the “delayed gratification” idea here, but nothing could be further from the truth. It would be, if my Paradise involved mindless Internet browsing, but it doesn’t. If anything, it contains a complete freedom from this particular temptation. Thus, in choosing to stay focused on writing, I bring this aspect of Paradise, this particular “gratification” right here to the present. If, on the contrary, I had chosen to go look what’s happening on Google+, I would have delayed it indefinitely.


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