The eyes of the future are looking back at us,
and they are praying
that we might see beyond our own time.
They are kneeling with hands clasped
that we might act with restraint,
that we might leave room for the life
that is destined to come.
To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle.
Perhaps the wildness we fear
is the pause between our own heart beats,
the silent space that says we live only by grace
wildness, wilderness lives by this same grace,
wild mercy is in our hands.
Let this be our prayer, reimagined.
by Terry Tempest Williams
I was moved by these words from Terry Tempest Williams right from the first time I came across them, and this movedness is growing.
Let me tell you why…
Last week I facilitated a ritual in the context of the Work That Reconnects where we stretched our imagination a bit: we divided our group in two, arranged that half of us would remain being people alive in 2019, and the other half donned themselves in some sort of headdress and became a human of the 7th generation from now, which is about 200 years in the future. We chanted the sound ‘Ah’ together to transport ourselves into Timeless Time, so the future generations could have the chance to ask some questions to the 2019 people.
The ritual was based on the assumption that there are human beings living together in 200 years from now who have cultural and historical memory, meaning that the current human beings they were talking with must have played some role in the transition from what in the Work That Reconnects is called ‘the Industrial Growth Society’ to a ‘Life Sustaining Society’ – for it seems that if we keep going on this industrial growth path, the future is not looking bright for those who are coming after us.
So having arrived in timeless time, the people from the 7th generation were paired up with their ‘ancestors’. They were given several questions to ask about what it’s like to live in the beginning of the 21st century, in the time of nuclear weapons, melting glaciers, bleaching coral reefs and unprecedented burning in the arctic and the Amazon. They asked how it was to take the first steps towards trying to contribute to positive change, and what kept their ancestors going in the face of obstacles and an uncertain future?
Having listened to different 2019 people answering these questions, the future beings responded from their heart. Empathy, gratitude and tenderness flowed richly, leading to a profound experience for both groups which together we reflected on in depth.
I guess the context for the profoundness was the concern many of us live with about what the world will be like for those who come after us, and I also experience this strongly in the poem above. So it was really precious to look directly into some of these ‘eyes of the future’ while they were ‘looking back at us’ and to hear their prayer, their gratitude for any acting ‘with restraint’ and for creating ‘room for the life that is destined to come’.
Back in the brightness of day, it’s leading to piercing questions: am I acting with restraint? With grace? Am I protecting what’s wild and gentle? Can I do more?? Not out of some moral ‘should’ or personal martyrdom, but out of connectedness and love for those yet unborn?
So since this practice, I’ve began to include the future generations in my loving kind practice. May my loved ones be well, and my neutral ones, stretching into those difficult ones… and then on to the great-grandchildren of my now 6 year-old son, the offspring of the skylarks that I love to hear singing in the Pentland hills, the future generations of elephants, Soay sheep (like the gentle wise-eyed inhabitant of Holy Isle on the photograph by Iain McLean), narwhals, whoever comes to mind. I wish I felt confident there will be wildness for them to inhabit, or that they’ll be able to come into being at all…
Alex Evans wrote in his interesting book ‘The Myth Gap’ that what is needed is the sense of a ‘larger us’, and a ‘longer now’. Both this poem, this ritual and this practice help me connect with that. They help to stretch to include those I experience as ‘them’, whether geographically, ideologically, or chronologically. And from this larger connectedness, it might be a bit easier to make choices that enhance the chance of the future ones flourishing in their lives. May it be so!
PS If you’d like to hear the words from Terry Tempest Williams in context and from her own mouth, you can go here…