I have long wondered about the concept of “life plans.” And here we start a discussion of the concept.
Friday, April 3, 2015
F: I have to begin working harder, longer, better – I feel myself spinning wheels, slipping. That is not satisfying.
And, Miss Rita, I hear you ready to come in, at just 6 a.m., after I have been writing to myself for half an hour.
R: It is the writing to yourself that I wish to remind you not to overlook. One pitfall of regular communication with others is that you may neglect to communicate with yourself.
F: Thoreau said it long ago, something like, “depend on it, the man who walks away from the post office with the most letters hasn’t heard from himself in a long time.”
R: An overstatement, perhaps, but a pointed one, and obviously it resonated with you, enough that you remembered it well enough to be able to paraphrase it. But it is not enough to be able to quote wisdom; not enough, even, to agree with it. You must live it, or what good is it to you?
F: Guilty, your honor.
R: Of course this is not just for you. That would come as a private communication, for you are not required to say everything that happens to you, any more than one can be required to give out every thought that occurs to him or her (not that it would be possible, in any case). But you in your role as exemplar / encourager of this new way of expanding one’s life experience are, therefore,
F: Lost the thread. That was getting to be an involved sentence.
R: I merely point out that you can teach easiest by setting out as example what happened to you. Not that you need to be persuaded about it, that’s what you have been doing right along, since Muddy Tracks. The point is, what happens to one might happen to another. One person’s temptations, opportunities, insights, pitfalls, serendipitous occurrences, may serve as inspiration to another, only it is important that such experience not be prettied up or glorified or made “glamorous” – and such reporting happens to be right up your alley. Of course I say “happens to be,” and smile, for of course that was all part of the plan.
F: Unless you have other fish to fry, let’s talk about planning, since you bring it up. People talk about life-plans and all that, and I’ve never known what to think about it. Something in me says the concept isn’t quite right, no matter how firmly people believe in it, and no matter what convincing evidence comes, such as Robert Schwartz’s book about life plans, the title of which escapes me. [“Your Soul’s Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born,” Amazon reminds me.] Do we plan out our lives ahead of time? If so – well, talk about it, if you will.
R: Like so many other topics we have discussed, it all depends upon your viewpoint. Where people go wrong – or, let’s say, where the seeds of disagreement are sown – is in failing to recognize that any one particular way of seeing things is only one way, never the only way. And isn’t that the theme of this work? If it were not so, how could anyone say anything new, anything helpful, on any subject that has been discussed since time began? If anything could be described once for all – well, that would be the end of the discussion.
Now, notice, this is not a question of some people seeing rightly and others not; it is a matter of attaining a higher perspective so you can make new maps. And those maps are “new” only in so far as they are anchored, on one end, by the understanding of the person pondering them. That is, unlike an architectural blueprint, the thing being examined is different to each one looking at it.
And isn’t that consistent with what we are saying here right along? Every person is a unique window on the world, hence is potentially the source of irreplaceable information. What is clear and plain to you may have been never clear or plain to anyone in the history of the world, for nobody has ever had your perspective to view it from.
F: I know you mean that for everybody, not just for me. I’m only pointing out that I’m aware of it.
R: That is yet one more value of the individual to the species, as an irreproducible window.
All right, now to the question of life plans. Here – and on any topic you care to explore – it is well to consider the assumptions you bring to the question, as that awareness will help you separate out the essentials from the ephemera.
F: Come again?
R: Observe as we do it.
If we begin from the assumption that time is as it appears to be – the present moment continually turning into the past, continually unrolling the future that will become the present – the subject will be as it appears. And if we look at it as past present and future all existing and you experiencing them as the moving present carries you along, still they don’t appear much different – you may see more possibilities, a wider field of action, as you interact with past and future in ways the first concept would have no scope to allow – but still you will be encased in a framework that seems to support such planning. And, I repeat, that way of seeing things is not invalid from within that set of assumptions. It works, and it is more correct than the view that sees life as meaningless collisions. It’s a good halfway house to further insights. (Indeed, what isn’t? You aren’t going to find any ultimate truths, and neither am I. The best we can do is reframe our understanding.)
F: Still pursuing A by understanding B, etc.
R: That’s the nature of it.
Okay, so how do life plans and life-planning look from a different perspective? Take our analogy of reality as a CD-ROM imprinted with all possibilities, and any given life as one walk down those possibilities. Look at things that way, and you can see that the “planning” is actually inherent in the original design of the game.
F: May I try?
R: Go ahead; it will be easier than taking dictation.
F: What I’m getting is that all reality – all possible versions of everything – is created at once, and there’s our CD-ROM (an analogy probably already obsolete, but there you are). Every possible path is there, which means more than “every possible decision for a given individual already exists”; it means, every possible variation of all individuals exists. Thus Franks with very different characteristics also exist, so do versions without him.
In such case, how meaningful is it to talk of life planning as if planning for only one person in only one version of reality? It is more meaningful to say that every possible path – including the intuitive path often called the pathless path – is there for the choosing, and so the “life planning” so called is actually merely the deciding among alternatives.
R: Not quite. Even here, your model is being silently influenced by other assumptions that lead you to treat a life as one path; thus, one decision and that’s it, everything from that point is merely a run-through. Does that feel like the life you experience day by day?
F: No. It sort of makes it seem all automatic-pilot, doesn’t it? Well, then?
R: Merely recognize that your life is an endless series of starting points.
F: I get it, but go on for the sake of the studio audience, as it were.
R: Isn’t it clear? You could profitably look at your life – at anybody’s life, of course – as a continual moment of choice. No matter what you do, you leave yourself at a moment of choice among the next alternatives. Your birth may be regarded as the first choice, as it places you within a certain reality-stream. Obviously, by being born you obviate the streams that don’t include you. As you go along, you eliminate or shall we say bypass the streams in which you die young. Every new moment is the beginning of the choice of what comes next, as every new moment is also the culmination of all past choices. So, your life plan cannot rightfully be seen as one inevitable blueprint, but as a continuous choice among alternatives. And isn’t that just how it feels?
F: Yes it is. That’s how I experience it. Maybe that’s why the concept of a life-plan always sort of grated on me.
R: But what we’ve said so far is not the end of the story, for there is in fact a vector to your life, to everyone’s life.
F: I know – “but that, we’ll have to go into next time.”
R: Correct. It’s nearly seven, and I need to let you turn off the light so we can enjoy the sunrise.
F: Okay, thanks and till next time.