6.26.2009

from the poet: walking backwards into the future

"In the Chinese language, " says the poet Li-Young Lee, "when we say, qian, 'ten,' that’s the day before yesterday. The word, qian means “in front of, or before.” So yesterday lies in front of us.

"When you say hotian, that is the day after tomorrow; ho means behind us. So the future is behind us. To the Chinese mind, the future is behind us, the past is in front of us. We are backing up, blind, into the future. Which is true.

"Now, to the Western mind, the future is all before, so you leave the past behind. I think that’s backward, because what you’re looking at is in front of your eyes, is actually, literally, the past. All of this . . . the tape . . . everything . . . is going into the past, as we speak. Three billion cells a minute, as we speak, at that rate. So all of this is going away, and we’re just falling into the dark.

" . . . . So even when we look up at the sky at night, we’re looking at a picture of the past. So when we look down and look around us, we’re looking at a picture of the more immediate past, but it’s the past. We we’re constantly staring at the past."

Li-Young Lee is a favorite of mine. He is a serious, obsessive, and brilliant poet with a certain clarity of perspective on life and aesthetic living that i love and relate to! what i love about this thought expressed above is how it describes a gospel perspective on life. we rely on what we know and have learned of the past to direct us ahead. knowledge of past illuminates the future. for example, my knowledge of pre-earth life, my relationship to God, and that i can become like him helps me walk boldly forward into the unknown. in a sense, while walking ahead, i am in fact walking back to God, back to my past. but when i return, i will hopefully have the knowledge and experience to support God's vision of who i am and what i can become.

my path, then, is circular, not linear.

we do walk ahead, but facing backwards. carrying an inheritance and responsibility from God and ancestors that have helped determine who and what we are today.

the future is behind us.

qian.

4 comments:

Mary Malcarne Thomas said...

for heavens sakes! You're brilliant and I love this whole concept. I love that crazy china poet man for teaching us all something old/new/obvious. I love the image of us walking backwards into the future. REading your post made me have a serious of mind blowing epiphanies. I LOVE THAT! I love you. I thought for sure you'd ditch work to come across country with John to soak in the eastern air.

Too bad.

it's pretty darn perfect here (though a touch chilly)

Sue said...

I love the image of walking backward into the future. When I was a girl I would walk around the house with my eyes closed - pretending I was blind. I just wanted to know what it was like. But walking backward into the future - I do know what that is like. I keep trying to figure out what skills I will need for the future and wondering how I will ever know what skills to prepare. But I can look at the past - and not just my own past - for clues. But I still won't have eyes in the back of my head.

Susannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susannah said...

I love this idea. I have a hard time getting my head wrapped the concept of "one eternal round" so this definitely puts that in a way that gives me a better understanding of that It also made me think about Pres. Monson's talk "Finding Joy in the Journey" from October 2008 conference. And of course, we can't forget Scrooge, who promises to live in the past, present, and future. I would like to think that this is probably what Dickens had in mind.