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How do our unique conscious minds reflect and amplify nature’s vast evolutionary process? This book provides a scientifically informed, psychologically holistic approach to understanding and enhancing our future consciousness, serving as a guide for creating a realistic, constructive, and ethical future. Thomas Lombardo reveals how we can flourish in the flow of evolution and create a prosperous future for ourselves, human society and the planet.
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Wisdom and Creating a Good Future
"If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation."
The Question and the Answer
How do we create a good future?
This deceptively simple question is the central challenge of human life. Moreover, as a key thesis of this book, the question brings to center stage the most distinctive and empowering capacity of the human mind: to imagine, think about, and purposefully pursue desirable and preferable futures. Our minds are uniquely constructed to raise and attempt to answer, in theory and action, this most important of all questions within our lives.
Each of us routinely thinks about this question, in one form or another. Each of us repeatedly attempts to answer it. However clearly formed and focused in our consciousness, we awake to some mini-version of this question every morning — even if our future horizon extends only to what we want to accomplish for the day. And based on the answers we come up with, as our consciousness rises and blossoms in response to the morning sun, we all set goals, take action, and pursue the good future, however narrowly or vaguely we define it.
Yet beyond the mundane, the routine, and the simple issues of the day, creating the good future is the big, deep practical question of life — the central question we ponder and debate within ourselves and among ourselves, across the years and through the decades of our existence on the earth. This is the pivotal challenge we are given as children; this is the question we strive to address as adults; and this is the issue we reflect upon in our senior years: Have we succeeded or not in answering the question and achieving the goals that follow from our answers?
Given the great importance and centrality of this question, as an ongoing concern within the human mind, it is not surprising that since the beginnings of recorded human history, innumerable, varied, and often conflicting answers and philosophies of life addressing this question have been created, marketed, proselytized, and frequently even forced upon human populations across the world. This is the meat and potatoes of world religions, cultural belief systems, businesses and governments, political ideologies, grand narratives and theories of the future, and all manner of pop philosophies and psychologies. If we examine any contemporary book dealing with organizational, social, environmental, or personal improvement we will find, as central to its message, proposed answers to the question of the good future and how to create it. Whether we fully realize it or not, we are all bombarded every day, explicitly and subliminally, with answers to this big question. Individually, what should we do with our lives? Socially, in what direction should we attempt to guide our collective actions and the future of humanity? What is the right or best course of action for all of us in the years ahead?
Moreover, there is a dimension of urgency, human drama, and often peril associated with this question, since when we imagine and think outward into our future we see an array of anticipated problems and crises threatening our continued well-being, if not our very existence. The quality of our future seems jeopardized by climate change and environmental degradation, ongoing war and terrorism, greed and corruption, inequality and injustice, incessant and intractable political, religious, and cultural conflicts, and stress, frenzy, and information overload in our modern technological world, to name just a few of the most notable challenges facing us. The future seems filled with dangers and obstacles that require our attention and corrective action if we are to realize a good future.
Frequently, answers to the question of the good future are framed as proposed solutions to the perceived problems and threats facing us. The positive — what we should hope for and aspire toward — often gets defined relative to the negative — what there is to fear and avoid that is looming ahead of us. We had better figure out how to create a good future, or else we are going to end up with a really bad one. The reader is referred to The Millennium Project's comprehensive list of major global challenges facing humanity and global efforts to solve these problems, and my Contemporary Futurist Thought (Lombardo, 2006b) for a compilation and analysis of theories of the good future and the problems these theories are supposed to constructively address and solve.
As just a partial list, consider the diversity of answers below to the question of what the good future is (these varied answers can apply to our individual lives or the collective future of humanity):
The acquisition of financial or economic wealth
The purchase, consumption, and accumulation of things
The evolution of techno-gadgetry and the envisioned wondrous future of techno-marvels
Basic material necessities, physical comfort, and security for all humanity
Physical health and vitality and perhaps vastly extended human life spans
Increasing power, individually and/or collectively
Fame and social recognition
Following the moral commandments and teachings of varied religions, often within the religion being identified as the Word of God
The triumph of good over evil, of God over Satan, and the reward of everlasting heaven for deserving souls
A spiritual life of transcendence (emancipation) of worldly and material concerns
The preservation of tradition (values and beliefs) and the continuation of the status quo
Increased harmony with nature and the restoration (improvement) of our natural environment
Creating a sustainable society
Lifelong learning, education, the evolution of human consciousness, and ongoing personal enlightenment
Self-development, professional advancement, and personal accomplishment in life
Mental health, inner peace, and sustained happiness
Pleasure, excitement, and sensation (the good future as "bread and circuses")
The pursuit and enhancement of love, family, and communion and friendship with others
Equality and justice for all
Liberty and democracy for all
A collective spirit of global humanity embracing human diversity
Interpersonal and world peace
These various answers regarding the good future are not in all cases incompatible and it may seem that there are degrees of validity in many of these proposed ideals and aspirations. But there are also differences and disagreements, and what some may see as the good future, others see as flawed and disastrous in its consequences or implications. Throughout human history and up to present times, at least to a significant extent, we have not agreed on what is the good future or how to realize it. As one clear dimension of disagreement in the above list, is the good future defined primarily in terms of environmental and physical realities, or is it more psychological, social, ethical, or spiritual in nature?
That we live and navigate within a rich and engulfing array of answers to the question of the good future makes perfect sense since, as I argue in this book, the core distinctive function and purpose of the conscious human mind is creating visions of good futures and then attempting to realize these visions, as well as communicate our hopes and dreams about tomorrow to others. We are beings that create and share futures. As part of this general capacity, we also create and share our apprehensions and fears regarding what would be a bad future, indeed a disastrous, dystopian, or depressing future. Our minds are perpetually creating positive and negative futures and comparing them, and we dialogue and debate among ourselves their merits and deficiencies, as we travel through our lives upon the river of time.
To sum up, quoting Ortega y Gasset,
"Since man is above all future-making, he is, above all, a swarm of hopes and fears."
Focusing on this central issue of human life and our ongoing efforts to meet this fundamental challenge-how do we define and create a good future that constructively addresses the varied problems facing us today — this book offers a unique and enlightening vision, an evolutionary, future-focused theory of the human mind and the nature of wisdom that will educate, inspire, and guide individuals, organizations, and society as a whole to create a good future.
Over roughly the last twenty-five years, as a futurist, psychologist, educator, and philosopher (all my life I have resisted narrow specialization), I have taught courses and workshops and written on the general issue of the good future, and all manner of variations and elements of this question (Lombardo, 2006a, Chapter 1; 2011a). The relatively simple version of my answer to this question that has emerged over this time is:
Flourishing in the flow of evolution is the good future, and wisdom is the means to create it.
A lengthier version of this answer, adding a bit more detail to the above is:
We create a good future, defined as flourishing in the flow of evolution, through the heightening of future consciousness, which is achieved by developing a core set of character virtues, most notably and centrally wisdom.
Consider each of the key words and expressions in the more expanded answer:
Let's begin with the word "future." The future is ongoing reality, whatever it will be, from now forward in time. When I use the word "future" I do not mean some specific point in time or period ahead. Rather, the future is an open-ended continuum and a journey; the future continues and continues and continues from the present. Perhaps there is no end, no final future.
Also, I do not assume that there is only one possible singular future relative to the present. I see the future as an indeterminable array of possibilities (which is why many futurists prefer the plural word "futures") extending outward in time. Metaphorically, the future is a branching tree of potential, diverse trajectories. From these myriad potential alternatives, the future is perpetually realizing itself and taking form in the present, to some significant degree being determined and created by us.
Therefore, the future is not some place off away from us, separated from the experience of life. We face the future. We are perpetually swimming into it, continually and creatively realizing and living through choices and decisions within the unfolding of events. The future is where we are spending the rest of our lives, starting right now.
Although it sounds paradoxical, I frequently tell people that the future is now. It keeps happening and getting created in front of our eyes.
I also frequently tell people that the future is the act of creation and we are all participating in it. (The act of creation did not happen sometime in the distant past; it is ongoing.)
There was a time when I would have said that anything is possible in the future. I still believe that what is possible in the future is not easy to determine or delimit. Both our understanding of the world and our imagination are limited by, among other things, our views of the past and the present. Consider that throughout history, many things that we thought were impossible in the future became reality. Our imagined future is psychologically and socially constrained, at any point in time, by our understanding of the nature of reality. What history teaches us is that without question the possibilities of the future extend way beyond our present imagination and capacities of conception.
Yet, the universe is not some willy-nilly chaotic mishmash of everything; there is order and structure to things, and in particular to the way things unfold in the future. There is a pattern to reality and the flow of time. The future has to be consistent with the overall structured order of reality. To put it simply, the future is a subset of reality, and reality has an order, hence so does the future.
Therefore any credible vision of the future, good or bad, needs to be grounded, with appropriate humility, in a solid theory of the nature of reality. Even if we are fallible and limited in our understanding of reality (such is the nature of human knowledge), what we say about the future needs to be consistent with our best contemporary understanding of reality (its laws, principles, and structure).
What I present in this book is a theory of reality and the future, and in particular human reality and the possibilities of our future, that is grounded in our best scientific understanding of the cosmos at this point in time.
The nature of the "good" is a philosophical and personal challenge of critical importance in life. Part of the challenge is that there are many different and often competing approaches to defining this key idea within human life. The good is love; the good is obedience to God; the good is prosperity; the good is freedom; the good is relative to person, place, and time. There are many different answers to the question of what constitutes the good or the good life, which is why there are many different answers to the question of the good future.
Yet, the idea of the good is essential to understanding human existence. Humans, by our very nature, define and pursue ideals and goals according to what we believe is good. The good defines our purposeful trajectory in life. We are ethical and purposeful beings who direct our behavior relative to our conceptions of the good. We evaluate our lives and other lives in terms of what is preferable and what is not. Even if we differ in our answers to the good, we all organize our minds and our behavior relative to some notion of the good. This is the way our minds are constructed.
The good provides a preferential compass for the future. In living our lives, we create and direct our future relative to our conception of the good. What we purposefully pursue in the future is anchored to our view of the good. Any answer to what a "good future" is depends upon some concept of what the good is.
The good can be defined as what is ethical and what is best. Theories of (or practical approaches to) the good invariably involve some set of values and ideals and some set of standards and principles of excellence. Even if we have different beliefs regarding what the good is, and even if we do not live up to these ideals in our actions, we all have values regarding what is good or best which provide a guiding light for how we believe we should live and how we should direct our future.
One of my central opening arguments in what follows is this: If we examine human beliefs regarding the good throughout history we find that the good is usually connected with some notion of wellbeing; that is, what is good is seen as what creates, supports, or leads to well-being. It follows then that the "good future" is a future that best supports ongoing well-being, both for ourselves and others. Moreover, well-being and the good can also be extended to all life and not just limited to humans.
Another major point I present early in this book is that theories of what is good, as well as theories of the future, start from ideas or assumptions regarding the nature of reality. Theories of ethics or the good always assume theories of reality, in particular, the nature of human reality. This makes perfect sense, since the good, however defined, has to be enacted in the context of reality and human life. Reality, and in particular, human reality, sets the boundaries and possibilities and defines the working territory in which the good is realized.
A vision of what is good that is unrealistic is irrelevant to life, if not counterproductive. If we are going to describe what a good future is, then it had better be realistic and applicable to life; it needs to be consistent or resonant with the way the universe and nature work and consistent with the facts of human society and psychology.
Excerpted from "Future Consciousness"
Copyright © 2016 Thomas Lombardo.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I, 1,
Chapter 1 — Wisdom and Creating a Good Future, 2,
Chapter 2 — Reality and Cosmic Evolution, 23,
Chapter 3 — Human Evolution and Consciousness, 58,
Chapter 4 — Reciprocity, 96,
Chapter 5 — Well-Being and the Good, 112,
Chapter 6 — Flourishing through Virtue, 167,
Chapter 7 — Heightened Future Consciousness, 197,
Chapter 8 — Self-Control and Self-Responsibility, 249,
Chapter 9 — The Ecology of Future Consciousness, 294,
Part II, 349,
Chapter 10 — Emotion, 353,
Chapter 11 — Motivation, 405,
Chapter 12 — Purposeful Behavior, 456,
Chapter 13 — Learning, Memory, and Habit, 484,
Chapter 14 — Consciousness and Understanding, 516,
Chapter 15 — Thinking and Imagination, 576,
Chapter 16 — Creativity, 613,
Chapter 17 — The Self and the Personal Narrative, 657,
Chapter 18 — Wisdom, 712,