Author: Douglas Wilton

Since viewing the photographs from Auschwitz in his youth, D. B. Wilton has pursued a lifelong quest to discover the roots of human conflict and foster a more enlightened world. To that end he has trained with both Tibetan and Zen teachers and has been both an activist for nuclear disarmament and a fund-raiser for environmental causes. He has also written and edited several lit mags, hosted durable reading series and is currently working on his fourth novel. He lives in Nelson, B.C. where he conspires with kindred souls to embody our global visions of peace on the ground of identification with all life.

A Center

By Ha Jin

Found this on the Poetry Foundation website.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/152066/a-center

You must hold your quiet center,
where you do what only you can do.
If others call you a maniac or a fool,
just let them wag their tongues.
If some praise your perseverance,
don’t feel too happy about it—
only solitude is a lasting friend.

You must hold your distant center.
Don’t move even if earth and heaven quake.
If others think you are insignificant,
that’s because you haven’t held on long enough.
As long as you stay put year after year,
eventually you will find a world
beginning to revolve around you.

Planetary Chess

Imagine the world on which snow now falls

in fat fluffy flakes

limning everything near enough to be visible

thru the snow fog

with thick soft snow

~

Imagine that invisible beneath the snow

a planetary grid divides the surface of our Earth

into innumerable geometric tiles

like the pentagons that cover a soccer ball.

~

Imagine that you are standing on

such a pentagonal tile

just large enough to give you

standing room.

~

Imagine that each of its five sides is bounded

by five other tiles some occupied, some empty.

Now you must choose

to stay where you are or move

into an adjacent tile surrounded

by another set of choices.

~

Imagine there are consequences

for each move makes you richer or poorer

stronger or weaker

more lonely or more loved

lighter or heavier of heart

more or less alive.

~

Imagine that each move you make

also affects other beings including humans—

a soft word taketh away wrath

a hard word hardens it

carefully listening enlivens the speaker

half listening turns him away.

~

Imagine that every human on this global chessboard

is also making small but consequential moves—

eating a plate of cow meat or tofu

turning a key that fills the sky with carbon dioxide

or drains the electric grid that dams wild rivers

kneeling to pray to a cosmic tyrant

or voting for a populist thug

~

or moving two fingers across a board

tiled with 26 keys

knowing that

if enough of us produce the right words

at the right times

the empire of ice will vanish

like February snow.

The past and future now

The future never arrives but present changes and choices mean that the present is changing in a certain direction, becoming more like a place of peace or war, well being or sickness. Some consequences are very improbable, others are virtually certain. If you don’t wear a hat in the rain your head will almost certainly get wet. So a well informed picture of possible futures is a guide to the direction of change and tells us how our actions may steer it so that the present changes in a direction that reduces our personal or collective suffering.

The past exists only now as traces and imprints of earlier forms in shapes and structures of the present. Based on those imprints we form mental images of things that leave their traces here as they dissolve and feed the ground of energy and atoms.

From those traces in external things and our personal memories we elaborate a concept of time as a continuum between all past, present and future things. Between what no longer exists, what exists and what does not yet exist, between decaying or growing actualities of now and what is condensing from immediate possibilities of now into the decaying or growing actualities of now.

Significantly the actual present does not descend from some future state but from its present future possibilities.

Likewise the past does not descend from the present but consists only of older aspects of the present, like factual events such as the recent century’s genocides which cannot be made to Unhappen any more than a corpse can rise from the grave and return to its mother’s womb. Still their traces in matter and human memory will fade even as they continue to shape the future of the unfolding present.

The oldest forms of now, their substance lost in the atomic fields, are little more than the traces of them that now exist as their causal effects whether biological, behavioural or cultural, on their descendants or other present forms.

The immediate moment is where some of its inherent probabilities are giving birth to and becoming the immediate future while others remain latent or dissolve.

Latent images of the past exist in the forms of the present, images which become visible to the eyes of memory and reason. The images exist because the past exists in a fourth dimension of each material form.

Latent images of the future also exist because the present also contains an ever changing array of possible or probable futures. But these futures do not exist beyond present events but only as their inherent possible consequences.

We humans move constantly from a past that never departs, toward a future that never arrives because the past exists only as the causal and developmental structure of each present event and the future exists only as a present set of its more or less probable effects. The sum of all causes is the immediate present, the sum of all their probable effects is what the present is probably becoming as parts of it continue to grow and other parts decay

We conveniently say that the past falls away as we move on into the future but we never move beyond the continuously changing present and its latent, continuously changing past. The oldest parts of the past dissolve into fragments and those fragments dissolve and do not cease to exist but change into the atomic substance of all present forms.

So nothing moves from the changing present into the nonexistent future and nothing moves from the eternally changing present into the past because the past is not actually past but the sum of all growing and dissolving forms we conveniently call the present.

The present moment is both the immediate past and the immediately unfolding future because there is not a nanosecond between them. The only real moment is what is unfolding now. It has been unfolding since the beginning of time and it will continue to unfold until time ends but at no point in its unfolding does it become a past moment tho it makes memories as it goes.

Likewise it does not at any point become a future moment but is always the unfolding now. As it unfolds the present array of possible future nows changes because each move on the chess board of now conditions what choices and changes can still occur. If Nestle drains your water table you will have to buy water or move. If all the lions starve your unfolding now will never include the splendour of a living lion.