Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Cinemas of Past and Future

The only reality is in Now. Within the individual human stream of consciousness Past and future exist only in imagination. What we remember is only a mental fantasy, and what we plan and hope and fear will happen in the future remains forever in the imagined future. Even when we are able to foresee a future event through precognition, it makes its appearance as an imagined thing because as an event it is not yet Now.

The future is a theater in the mind, an cinema of the imagination. My attention, my consciousness, turns inward to watch the dramas in the darkened room of my skull instead of outward to focus on Now. It’s like spending a beautiful afternoon in a dim movie theater where many of the shows are scary or distressing. And when what was imagined as "the future” is actually happening, my attention is most likely absorbed in watching a movie about yet another imagined future.

As for what has been stored in memory, if you are lucky the cinema of the past will show a lot of nostalgic, feel-good movies and tales of triumphs and pleasures, but all too often the stored reels contain a jumble of regrets, resentments, and angry scenes. Unfortunately the distressing movies may clamor more regularly for attention than the happy ones.

I liked the movie theater analogy so much that I christened the decrepit and odiferous Lyric Theater (scornfully called “The Arm Pit”) in my home town as the cinema of the past, while the modern Florida Theater showed movies about my imagined future.

(In Gainesville, where I grew up, the Florida Theater showed first run “A” films. The secondary cinema, the State Theater showed a lot of reruns and also-rans, and was of value to me primarily because it showed a western movie, a “B” suspense movie, and serials like Flash Gordon on Saturday afternoons.)

In contrast to the “A” and “B” movies of the Florida and State theaters, the Lyric Theater covered the lower end of the alphabet. I can’t even recall what movies were shown there, but the atmosphere was so bad and the ancient seats so broken down and uncomfortable that no one went to the Lyric except out of extreme necessity. The Lyric Theater was therefore the perfect candidate for my “Theater of the Past”, where I viewed and reviewed endlessly all the things that had happened to me.

My mental trick was to say, “The Florida Theater and the Lyric Theater are closed.”

I have definitely torn down the Lyric Theater, and now on the vacant lot between a music store and a magazine store I see a fat telescope pointed at the stars. If I start to brood about the past I say to myself, “No, the Lyric Theater is gone.”

I manage to attend the Florida Theater a lot less often than I used to, reminding myself if I start to be concerned about the future that “it’s only a movie” and that the Florida Theater is no longer showing those movies.

To me these analogies brought into bright light the situation they represent. My Being is only in Now. Realized and awake, I can be in the Present and I can, at will, deliberately visualize a desired future situation and so encourage it to come into Now. This too turns attention from the Now, but at least it creates an enjoyable show with a happy ending.

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