Wise people and societies do not trade long-term benefits for immediate gratification nor the lessons of the past for the impulses of today. We are all part of an immensely ancient and still unfolding learning adventure, alive in this moment. So help all people and groups play their evolutionary roles consciously and responsibly for future generations and the Earth.
Some related patterns: 5 Bringing Understanding to Life 13 Commons and Commoning 57 Nature First 62 Possibility Thinking 67 Prudent Progress 72 Regenerativity 86 Universal Intelligence
Going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
“Deep time” refers to sensing deeply into the past, present and future.
The deep past refers to our 14 billion year evolutionary history as science describes it. It also refers to being aware, respectful, and appreciative of our ancestors and learning from them. It also refers to our history, considered deeply – not just “this country went to war with that country”, but history as lived by ordinary people, history that clarifies their quality of life, their experiences and relationships, and history as lessons for what we can do to avoid damage and enhance quality of life now and in the future. History is filled with lessons like that. Deep time understanding offers us deep and meaningful connections to our past.
Deep time awareness includes not being ahistorical, not thinking that everything important is what is happening now or that everything started when we were born. It is about sensing into what happened earlier, not just as history books with little connection to now, but as a lived reality. We are in the midst of a lived reality shaped by the lived reality that came before us.
The deep present is being fully present in the “here-and-now”, seeing clearly what’s going on now. It includes the future that exists in this now-ness – the possibilities, the tendencies and trends, the things we envision and long for. And this deep present can extend backwards and forwards in time, since all of time is embedded in the Now, as long as it is clearly sensed and seen in the Now.
The deep future we live in can extend over many generations or even to recognizing that our planet will one day be absorbed by the sun and turned to a crisp and disappear. Being fully present in deep time means taking our place in that unfolding time track.
Deep time is both an idea which puts our lives in perspective and a source of tremendous meaning, learning and guidance. It’s not just a mental model. Today is an essential part of deep time, but by itself – in just its most immediate forms – it is too narrow. Likewise, our self-interest is an important part of the larger needs of the world and of our community. But to narrow everything down to our self-interest is destructive, and to narrow everything down to what’s going on today and what I want today is likewise destructive.
We need to put our immediate needs and realities in their place, in the context of larger vistas of time, space and systems. Our stewardship is for the whole of deep time and for all of life, not just for us now.
Most people understand that current impulsiveness can endanger us, driving us to do things that will damage ourselves or others. Failure to think of the future, failure to ground ourselves in what we’ve been taught in the past that is potential guidance, virtually guarantees folly. Learning from the experiences of life is important. Immediate gratification and impulsiveness are not characteristics of wisdom. Our task is to apply these understandings to our own lives, to our communal lives and social structures, and to ask ourselves how we might create systems that embody this kind of stewardship of life for long-term benefit.
Because we seek long-term benefits as part of our working definition of wisdom in this pattern language. I find it particularly useful, in this regard, to hold evolution as a 14 billion year learning adventure. Even before there were humans, learning was being done by other organisms, by natural systems, even by physical laws. There are scientists today that are talking about the evolution of physical laws. At the beginning, in the first few seconds of the Big Bang, nothing remotely like today’s physical laws existed. We have a lot of physical laws that have been emerging over billions of years. The structure of the universe has been shifting and things that were not possible or likely have become more solid and real. There are ways of interacting and being in the universe which are always coming about and generating their own influence on everything else.