In his monumental book Flow, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi remarks on the importance of keeping a notebook: he writes
…having a record of the past can make a great contribution to the quality of life. It forces us from the tyranny of the present and makes it possible for consciousness to revisit former times…
In The Literature Machine, Italo Calvino says that ‘…everyone mines every book for the things that are useful to them…’ That’s certainly true for me of every book I read. I don’t know whether it’s true for everybody! But he clearly speaks for himself and for me. There’s some evidence of this in what follows.
It’s also the case that I can become absorbed in my old notebooks (a couple of yards of them), ‘looking for things that have been useful’ in the past. This morning (24th April 2019), having found a sheet of A4 with typed notes, in one of my inevitable heaps, beginning, ‘On my recent cycle ride…’ dated July 1993, I looked for an account of the journey in one of my small travelling notebooks and got lost in the nostalgia dribbled inside it – Clare (now dead), Chris & Roxanna (now dead), Dunoon, Crianlarich, Kettlewell, a woman (whom I don’t remember) at Clare’s asking me where the poems you write come from and not being satisfied with my answer. People and places I relish – and that’s how the A4 sheet goes on.
In Frankenstein’s Castle, Colin Wilson says, ‘…the Right Brain has no sense of time…’ I cluster all this remembering in a pattern in my right hemisphere and time is no more; I join my self on that journey back in 1993. Colin Wilson also said that ‘… when Maslow began talking to his students about ‘peak experiences’ they began talking & thinking about peak experiences. The result was they all began having peak experiences…’ When I read my notebooks I begin having the experiences all over again; the brain can’t tell the difference between what they were (or seemed to be) and what’s outside my window now – apple blossom time.
Anyway, this is the writing inscribed on the A4 sheet:-
On my recent cycle ride… I got into thinking about nostalgia and Time and I spent quite a bit of time floating above my time-line [an NLP concept] revisiting specific events disconnected from surrounding events or general events all connected up together: a moment sitting reading a specific book on a specific lawn in summer; ‘Bournemouth’ – the wadge of memories that goes to make up connections with the word itself.
I associate back into these events at whatever level I find them. I begin to wonder how other people relate to their past. What is the significance of their past for them? What causes ‘The Past’ to turn out be different for different people? During the 6 months of the NLP course, I was very glad to keep revisiting my past – even the painful bits; I noticed that others were perhaps not quite so enthusiastic or dealt with things in a different way from me. What makes the difference?
I’ve always been interested in TIME. I wondered about writing a book relating NLP to TIME in some way. [And the following is a robust way I learned from the NLP courses I did after Early Retirement of checking the validity of a project…] There’s a positive intention: I can seehear&feel the idea. My Context gives me time to do it. The Ecology of the idea seems OK. It would be worth the effort and time. It would do something for me, especially since I don’t seehearfeel myself attending protracted courses in NLP again. I can start the work on my own but to maintain momentum I need others. I wrote to Clare.
Here’s a list of things I’ve charted so far with no sort of rigour but just as things occurred to me:-
Think about your past!
• Where does it start?
• How far back does it go?
• How does the past seem to you?
• What makes it like that?
• What’s the shape of it?
• How is it packaged? (Presupposing that it is…)
• What ways do you have of storing TIME?
• Which parts of it do you associate with/dissociate from?
• What bits of it would you rather have had be different?
• Without necessarily being aware of it, how did you anchor specific bits of the past?
• When you go back into the past, what happens?
• What were you doing this time 10/20/30/40 etc years ago?
• What strategies do you have for storing tune?
• What are your feelings about nostalgia?
• How are peak experiences different from others?
• What is it like to recall bad/shameful/tragic/generally uncomfortable experiences?
• What regrets do you have about the past?
• What will it be like when you’ve sorted them?
• So what’s stopping you sorting them?
Examine presuppositions connected with the above questions!
• that it is better to have a rich and complex relationship to your past than not to have it
• that a thorough ownership of the past results in openness to experience/wholeness/ self-actualising tendencies
• that there will be identifiable outcomes: for example, a series of models of how people manage their past
• that an examination of people’s metaphors for TIME might be useful
Further exploration might include:-
• sub-modalities and the past: the colour of specific events – do they vary?
• meta-programs and the past
• meta-mirroring and The Past
After a brief exchange with Clare, it took me till 2001 and ROOM ONE before I started writing up my further thoughts on all this. Clare had died and I didn’t stick to the scheme.
Filed in a heap with this proposal from July 1993 is a sequence of quotations which must at the time have been notes for merging in with the above somehow.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi in Flow, p253:-
It’s odd but human life has never been subjected to mathematical research. Take time, for example. I long for an experiment that would examine, by means of electrodes attached to a human head, exactly how much of one’s life a person devotes to the present, how much to memories and how much to the future. This would let us know who a person really is in relation to their time. What human time really is. And we could surely define three basic types of human being depending on which variety of time was dominant…
How many types of human being? Orientated to Past, Present & Future and then some…
Csikszentmihalyi talks about discovering a complex life-theme:-
The strategy consists in extracting from the order achieved by past generations patterns that will help avoid disorder in one’s own mind. There is much knowledge – or well-ordered information – accumulated in culture ready for this use. Great music, architecture, art, poetry, drama, dance, philosophy and religion are there for anyone to see as examples of how harmony can be imposed on chaos. (Flow page 235)
He goes on to assert that ‘…literature contains ordered information about behaviour, models of purpose, and examples of lives, successfully patterned around meaningful goals…’ and that ‘…most people who discover complex life-themes remember either an older person or a historical figure whom they greatly admired and who served as a model, or they recall having read a book that revealed new possibilities for action…’
A Complex Life-theme. For me I think it’s nearly always been the case that ‘Making Connections’ is all one has to do in life. Asking the constant Virtual Question ‘How can I connect this with that?’ Combinatorial Avalanches. Everything is a making – some people call it ‘being creative’.
How do these quotations relate to the questions I asked about the concept of TIME? Ancient activity.
Whitejacket’s Almanac from Herman Melville’s Whitejacket (page l63 World Classics):-
…another way of killing time in harbour, is to lean over the bulwarks, and speculate upon where under the sun you are going to be that day next year, which is a subject full of interest to every living soul; so much so, that there is a particular day of a particular month of the year, which, from my earliest recollections, I have always kept the run of, so that I can even now tell just where was on that identical day of every year past since I was twelve years old. And, when I am all alone, to run over this almanac in my mind is almost as entertaining as to read your own diary, and far more interesting than to peruse a table of logarithms on a rainy afternoon. I always keep the anniversary of that day with lamb and peas, and a pint of sherry, for it comes in spring…
there was a moment
firstly an explosion of sunlight
down the long corridor
from kitchen to desk;
secondly the wood-pigeon crew-crewing
down the amplifying chimney stack;
thirdly the beginning of William Walton’s
Violin Sonata on the wireless;
and fourthly reading in a book
that all the parameters
categories and antitheses
that once we used to define
classify & plan the world
have been called into question
but something prevented me –
some cranial lassitude
(the morning wearing on) –
and the moment passed
(as other moments have)
and so did that unity of apprehension –
all things flowing together
in a not at all mystical undifferentiation –
that from time to time confirms
the unashamed life of the soul
in its little shining context
and the moment (now an hour ago)
comes out as poor discrete elements
line by line word upon word
in falsifying temporal contiguity
No doubt this poem appears in one of my books of poems…
And why consider that this is at all important?
In the first chapter of Milan Kundera’s Immortality, the first person narrator observes a 60-year old woman being coached to swim by a young life-guard. Her parting smile and wave seemed like a gesture belonging to a 20 year old.
It was the charm of a gesture drowning in the charmlessness of the body. But the woman, though she must of course have realised that she was no longer beautiful, forgot that for the moment. There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless…’
This Glob is a gesture from a fifteen year old ancient.