Mindfulness recognizes most of the past is forgotten and the future is unknowable. The mean is found in the leading edge of the present.
Our minds are made to forget. A perfect memory would overwhelm our cognitive circuits with minutiae.
"More memory is not generally better... Forgetting prevents the sheer mass of life's detail from critically slowing down the retrieval of relevant experience and so impairing the mind's ability to abstract, infer and learn."
Gert Gigerenzer, Gut Feelings
A perfect memory would make us too literal, too rational, too predictable. Enslaved to our past. Unable to navigate the future as it unfolds.
Yet, when we look back there are exquisite memories in rich detail. How can that be if so much is forgotten?
Our brains play tricks on us with those compressed memory threads.
"When we want to remember our experience, our brains quickly reweave the tapestry by fabricating‒not by actually retrieving‒the bulk of the information we experience as a memory. This fabrication happens so quickly and effortlessly that we have the illusion that the entire thing was in our heads the entire time."
Dan Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness
And what does the brain use to fabricate our long-term memories?
What we are experiencing in the present.
Likewise, predictions of the future tend to be extrapolations of what is occurring in the present.
What gets left out of all predictions is the unpredictable‒the unexpected events, the surprises. It is these surprises that often have the greatest impact on the future. They are the game changers that can swamp the incremental improvements and current trends.
Our past memories and future dreams are heavily skewed by our present experience.
How important it is, then, to fill our present lives with wonder and variety. To live The Good Life.
Our brains are best suited for navigating the adjacent possible. Our ability to connect apparently unrelated items to come up with novel solutions is remarkable. Such skill is what allows us to adapt and thrive in the future as it unfolds without having to predict it.
The leading edge is in the present, yet it is not. It is in the future, yet it is not. It is constantly flowing. Mindfulness is learning to ride that flow.
-J.D. Stein | February 2014