"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.