future in the past


POSTCARD #88: Delhi: In a taxi with Jiab heading out to the domestic terminal. The taxi driver said yesterday he was going to pick her up at 2.00pm – future in the past, now it’s 2.30pm and she might miss the plane. No problem, he’s intending to make up the time, he says with foot on the accelerator the whole way. We’re going so fast it’s like we’re on the edge of linear time. Everything is a blur, the “now” I experience at this moment was the future for me when I was in the past… this thought repeats over and over. Driver ignores the built-in audio system that tells us when he’s going over the speed limit; a recorded voice message can be heard in the car, which says, ‘you are going too fast!’ Innovative idea… needless to say we have to listen to this voice repeating: ‘you are going too fast!’ all the way out to the airport. Driver overtaking everything, nearside, offside, hand on the horn, and the penetrating little voice coming unexpectedly: ‘you are going too fast!’

Jiab, with her conditioning in Bangkok traffic, is maybe more used to this kind of thing than me. I’m adhered to the seat, doing my utmost to bond with the structure of the vehicle. It’s like I’m not going through these streets, these streets are going through me. There’s an alertness locked in place you could call mindfulness but it’s more like an urgency, and struggling a bit with the idea that the driver is doing all the wrong things, this shouldn’t be happening. Round a sharp corner and we swerve to avoid a small motorbike coming straight at us on our side of the road; that motorbike guy is doing all the wrong things too. Then there’s a great show of outrage at the traffic lights, because of a man on the back of a motorbike holding a vertical panel of pressboard that’s 5ft x 4ft (see photo) and the motorbike can’t go fast because of wind resistance… pedestrians running about in the traffic risking life and limb – everybody’s doing all the wrong things.

Yeh, well, it’s my perception of this that’s all wrong, of course. The people out there obviously feel they’re doing the right thing, and I’m the one who’s got it wrong. How to see it as they do when gravity seems to disappear at times? Focus on the breath, don’t look in the direction of travel, and I find a small island of calm abiding… ah yes, this is the way it is, extraordinary and exhilarating. Enjoy the show, I’m in a speedboat, everything seems fluid, things merging with other things and entering into everything else. The velocity of this vehicle rushing through the streets washes aside other vehicles as waves do in the sea; everything is like flotsam; how we normally receive experience is so near to universal unity, it’s the same thing.

Taxi arrives at the terminal, I get the bags onto trolley, Jiab jumps out, bye-bye… then I’m into the same taxi, and going back the way we came, same cacophony of noise, same breakneck speed. Get to the house and the whole journey was so quick, there and back again, it was like I’d never left. Give the driver 500 Rupees, and it’s too much I know, but I’m in a state of astonishment. Inside and crash on the sofa for an hour. A text message rouses me; it’s Jiab saying she’s in Ranchi, about 800 miles away.

“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.” [Deepak Chopra, ‘Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles’]

‘Future in the Past is used to express the idea that in the past you thought something would happen in the future’ For a grammatical explanation of Future in the Past, click here. ‘The “now” I experience at this moment was the future for me when I was in the past…’ developed from an idea in Silentlyheardonce. This post contains excerpts from an earlier post ‘Going Too Fast”. Special thanks to Mindfulbalance/Observing everything, for the Ajahn Amaro quote that inspired the idea: ‘I’m not going through these streets, these streets are going through me.’

29 thoughts on “future in the past

  1. This idea of ‘future in the past’ reminded me of this song by the Welsh pop group Stereophonics; and I believe the title came from the singer’s very young niece who was attempting to comprehend the concept of time by asking of her uncle ‘Is Yesterday Tomorrow Today?

    I hope it is permissible to include a video in a response Tiramit; I quite understand if you would rather moderate it out of any presence here.

    All best wishes; and many thanks for yet another engaging tale of adventure.


    • Thanks for the video Hariod, I was googling ‘future in the past’ for a grammatical source and noticed it then but no time to view. Is yesterday tomorrow today? Good question, it triggers something… a memory of the nineties and where was I then? Good to listen to this nice song again more than 20 years further down the road and still be held by the question…

  2. I am honored that I inspired your thought. As I read this I thought of a similar ride I took over 20 years ago. In my area they have vans that can get you from one point to another quickly. It was 2 am I was trying to get home after a party. I took this van. I was the only woman. There were younger men in the seat behind me and an older man in front. The driver went down this road we call the snake road, it’s a narrow, winding road with marsh on both sides with two way traffic. The way it twists you can’t see a car coming toward you. The driver had to be going more than 80 mph. The young men were yelling and telling the driver to slow down. The driver ignored them. The man in front sat tense. I felt this calm wash over me and I just sat back quietly in a daze. I still remember that feeling it was as if I was no longer in my body. As Ben points out “It’s like I’m not going through these streets, these streets are going through me.”

  3. I had a similar yet dissimilar experience in Delhi in the early 90s.

    Condensation had got into my watch and it had been intermittently resetting itself for several weeks. On the morning of the flight the alarm had failed and my girlfriend and I woke over an hour late.

    Desperately throwing our things into bags, racing downstairs without a shower (humidity around 100% – we really needed one), trying to keep my head as the guy at reception takes forever to process our bill.

    I’d got one of the hotel guys to hail a taxi while we were tied up in paperwork and by the time we’d sprinted outside there was an Ambassador cab waiting for us in the crowded Main Bazaar of Paharganj. Unlike your driver, ours was an incredibly laid back Sikh who was not going to be rushed by a hypomanic Westerner.

    “Do you know any shortcuts to the airport?”
    “There are no shortcuts. This is the best way.”

    “Can you go any faster?”
    “We are going at the correct speed.”

    “Our plane leaves in 45 minutes!”
    “You will not miss your plane.”
    “But we still have to check in!”
    “There will not be any trouble with that.”

    By the time we got to the airport I was frantic. Unusually, the driver had put the meter on without being asked. I tipped fairly heavily, not because I was happy with him but because I only had large notes and didn’t want to wait for the change.

    Despite our heavy backpacks we ran through the airport, ignoring a security guard who wanted us to stop, and got to the check in, gasping for air and drenched in sweat, almost exactly 30 minutes before departure.

    The woman at the counter seemed confused but apologetic.

    “I’m terribly sorry but I can’t process your ticket now”.
    “But the plane doesn’t leave for half an hour! There’s still time!”.
    “Your plane doesn’t leave until tomorrow”.

    I’d set the date on my watch incorrectly.

    • Thanks cabrogal, a story with a happy ending? At least you had another whole day to prepare for the flight. Reminds me there’s this ‘something’ about India that anybody who has lived here can recognise. It’s the randomness of events which sometimes connect up in a surprising way. It’s this unpredictable quality that you get kinda prepared for after a while but it still somehow shifts your direction unexpectedly and leaves things in a state of disarray…

  4. Gracious, how fun to take a moment catching up on my reader and to find such a deep time warp post as this here. I have recently been doing a dance with future in the past leading a dance to now as well!

    I am so glad that J is landed safe and sound and that we all get to celebrate the joy found in just being with what it is as it is.


    • Good to have you here. Yes, J has been there and back now. Somehow the idea of flowing rivers and fluidity seems to describe best the way we transit from one moment to the next. No end, no beginning, it’s always been like this… doing a dance with future in the past

  5. Such a wonderful description Tiramit! My body tensed and my palms broke out in sweat. I noticed I was holding my breath until….
    “Enjoy the show, I’m in a speedboat, everything seems fluid, things merging with other things and entering into everything else.”
    Yes indeed 🙂

    • Thank you Val, it’s the default holding-on state that causes the tension, of course, then an opportunity comes along to say well, it just doesn’t matter any more and you can let go of the whole thing – works better in a no-choice situation 🙂

  6. You describe the state of terror so well and so well do I know it. Sometimes I am able to push through and have the road go through me but more often my foot is on the non-existent brake on my side of the car. Will try letting the road go through me.

    • Hi Ellen and thanks for visiting here again. Yes, sometimes we can just push through it and have the entire experience just pass through – if we’re lucky… But I find it’s resisting the thing I’m anxious about, being caught in the tension of not wanting to go there, this is what causes the anxiety. The actual object of anxiety is there of course, hair-raising car journey, etc., but if I can let go of that resistance to it, and find a place to just see it happening – even if only for a moment – it somehow disconnects the urgency in a subtle kind of way. There’s the possibility that just one tiny insight into how this works is enough to cause one’s whole attention to shift in that direction, because it offers a solution.

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