Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: An interview with Tom Lombardo, author of Future Consciousness

Jan 9th, 2018 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Award Winner of the Network Book Prize for 2017 by the Scientific and Medical Network “for a book written by a member that makes the most significant contribution towards a new world view.”

by Tim Ward

We make New Yearʼs resolutions because we believe we can become a better person. While we may fall short of the goal of losing 10 pounds, quitting an addictive habit or losing our temper less, the drive to make oneself better says a lot about human nature. What if we could look beyond one resolution, and find a better way to actualize this powerful drive towards a better future in our lives? To this end, I interviewed Tom Lombardo, a college professor, author, philosopher, historian, and futurist. Tom is the author of a new Changemakers Book, Future Consciousness: The Path to Purposeful Evolution.

Question 1: What is the value of making New Yearʼs Resolutions, especially in light of our current personal and world challenges?

Answer: One important value of New Yearʼs Resolutions is to place our conscious focus on the future rather than either the present or the past. Focusing more on the future, increases our mental freedom and psychologically empowers us. To a great degree many of our contemporary problems, personal and global, are due to limiting mindsets that focus on the present or the past rather than the future.

Consider three counter-productive mindsets that focus on the present or the past, and how in each case a greater emphasis on the future would have a much more constructive impact:

The popular view of presentism argues that we should attend to the present and not think about either the past or the future. But focusing on the present is the most primitive and infantile form of consciousness; there is no sense of either the lessons of history or the future consequences of our present actions. This is sheer foolishness. If we donʼt learn from the past and use this knowledge to imaginatively and deliberatively think ahead, we repeat our mistakes and provoke disasters.

Focusing on the past, we may tenaciously hold onto to tradition; what was good in the past is still good today. Tradition, of course, has great value—we should learn from history—but tradition can become an obstacle to progress; tradition can serve to protect those in power and can be used to repress individual expression and growth. To a great degree reality is transformative and holding onto what was can become unrealistic. Change, a key feature of the future, needs to be acknowledged and embraced. To be realistic we need to address the transformative future.

Regressive nostalgia is a more insidious form of past consciousness. An idealized fictitious past—a “way we never were”—is fabricated through “rose tinted glasses.” Proponents argue that we should attempt to recreate this “golden age” in the present. But were the “good old days” all that good? Regardless, we can not travel backwards in time. Time inexorably moves into the future and regressive nostalgia unrealistically entices people to retreat to a fictitious paradise of the past.

The only game in town is the future and the future involves change. To ignore the consequences and possibilities of what is emerging in front of us—to live in the present—is childish and foolish; to run back to an non-existent idealized past is neurotic or psychopathological. Focusing on the future—which is what New Yearʼs Resolutions provoke—is realistic, mentally mature, psychologically sane, and empowering.

Question 2: Are there other values connected with New Yearʼs Resolutions?

Answer: A second important value is that New Yearʼs Resolutions put the emphasis on self-responsibility for improving our reality and creating a positive future, rather than placing the responsibility on other people or external forces. One of the most disempowering mindsets to have about the future is to view it as beyond our control and responsibility. Such a mindset generates depression, nihilism, and helplessness, and supports victimization, blaming, and excuse-making. All told, abdicating responsibility for the future weakens the self and disables action. Contrariwise, having a sense of self-responsibility for the future is psychologically elevating and energizing; it stimulates emotion and ignites motivation. “Self-responsibility” is a cardinal virtue, since personal resolutions to improve any aspect of our character and lifestyle require embracing self-responsibility. We are the initiators and the architects of our journey into the future.

Combining both above values, New Yearʼs Resolutions stimulate a mindset of self-responsibility for the future, which is a vastly superior mindset than passivity, living in the present, blaming others for the quality of our lives, or retreating into the past.

Another important value is that New Yearʼs Resolutions provoke decision making. Decisions are choices and without choices life is either without motion or direction, or it is propelled by external forces. Resolutions though should go beyond simply making a decision in the present. An effective resolution involves a long term commitment to a future way of life. A commitment is not a momentary state of mind; it is a long-term intentional change that requires tenacity and discipline. Effective resolutions are tenacious journeys. We should be actively practice and live our New Yearʼs Resolutions everyday—to “think and live the commitment” in the future.  An effective New Yearʼs Resolution is not a quick fix solution.

Question 3: If the purpose of New Yearʼs Resolutions is to create positive change in our lives—to create a better future than the past—then how are we to determine what is a good future for ourselves? What should we resolve to strive for?

Answer: I’ll anchor my answer with a quote from the psychologist, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi:

 

It is easier for us to imagine ourselves living among better appliances than among better human beings.

 

Two connected ideas in modern societyʼs answer to the good future are increased economic productivity and consumption and improved technology. In both cases the good future does not directly derive from the improved quality of humans. Rather, the good future derives from a cluster of external factors: wealth, production, purchasing, and gadgets. Supposedly, by enhancing these external factors, the quality of human life is improved and the good future is realized.

Yet, at best this promise has been half-fulfilled: Increased wealth and consumption only increase happiness up to a certain level; technologies and other products, driven by a profit oriented economic system, are often developed to accrue wealth to the producers and not so much to help people realize greater life fulfillment or satisfaction. Technologies can produce both positive and negative social-psychological consequences; they may empower or disempower the users and often require considerable tending and maintenance, in which it is not altogether clear who is serving whose needs.

In agreement with Csikszentmihalyi, we appear to have focused on improved appliances and the money to buy them as the key to a good future to the exclusion of directly attempting to improve ourselves.

I would suggest that we shift the emphasis to the improvement of humanity as the key to a good future. For one thing, as explained earlier, focusing on self-responsible self-improvement is psychologically more empowering and uplifting than viewing the external world (products and gadgets) as the cause of our quality of life and state of mind.

Physical products and technologies are important in life, but they should be used as instruments to serve self improvement, rather than to substitute for self-fulfillment and happiness. If we are dumber, weaker, more shallow, impulsive, and ego-centric with our gadgets than without them, we are doing something very wrong. If wealth does not make us more ethical, more wise, and better human beings, then we need to stop worshipping money and what it can buy as the ideal to aspire toward.  Our center of gravity needs to shift to the improvement of the species—psychologically, socially, ethically, and even biologically if need be—for most if not all of our problems today are traceable back to weaknesses, flaws, and vices in human behavior, values, thinking, and modes of consciousness.

As I highlight below, we should increasingly strive toward the enhanced purposeful evolution of humanity in the future as the means to create the good future.

Question 4: In your new book, Future Consciousness: The Path to Purposeful Evolution, you write that evolution itself leads us to a definition of “the good future” that we should pursue. Philosophers have struggled for millennia to define “the good.” Why do you think you have found the answer to this persistent question?

Answer: All theories throughout history (secular or spiritual) of the good have presupposed theories of reality, especially regarding the nature of human reality.

The good is envisioned and achieved in the context of a hypothesized reality. Hence, in order to create a valid and relevant vision of the good and the good future we need a solid theory of reality informed by contemporary thought.

I anchor my theory of the good future to evolution. Evolution provides our best contemporary scientific understanding of reality. Evolution furnishes an all-encompassing framework and narrative for the nature and history of the universe.

We are evolutionary beings existing in an evolutionary universe. However we define what is good, it needs to be resonant with and realized in a dynamic and evolving reality, which includes humanity and the ecology of the earth. And evolution encompasses the biological, psychological, social, ecological, ethical, and technological.

Further, if we examine the flow of evolution, we find that evolution is accelerating and that there have been repeated jumps in the process of evolution. Evolution is evolving. Humanity fits into this cosmic process of the evolution of evolution, for through our connected capacities for anticipation, foresight, goal setting, planning, and thoughtful deliberation about the future, we have realized an evolution in evolution. We are able to engage in purposeful evolution, and indeed, throughout our history we have (with various degrees of success) engaged in this process as the main guiding mechanism in the creation of modern civilization and the modern conscious mind.

As an expression of our most empowering and distinctive mental capacities, we are able to meaningfully ask and understand the question “What is the good future and how do we create it?” and execute in purposeful action our various answers to this question.  It is our distinctive human nature to engage in purposeful evolution with an eye on the future. We orchestrate and guide the development of our individual conscious selves through personal ideals, goal setting, and life-planning. We engage similar processes in guiding the future of our social and environmental development.

We are able to engage in purposeful evolution because we possess “future consciousness.” Future consciousness includes the total set of normal psychological abilities and modes of experience pertaining to the future. We have desires and emotions about the future; we have images and visions of the future; we set goals and create plans and engage in purposeful behaviors to realize our goals and visions of the future. We learn, remember, and gather information to guide and inform our future oriented actions. We do not simply go with the flow of evolution; we purposefully guide change through our multi-faceted capacity of future consciousness.

The good future will involve best facilitating purposeful evolution through future consciousness. To improve ourselves—literally to evolve ourselves—will involve the heightening of our capacity for purposeful evolution through future consciousness. Although we all possess this multi-faceted capacity for purposeful evolution through future consciousness we show various degrees of competence. This capacity can be significantly improved in all of us.

Most of our contemporary problems, personal and global, are due to deficiencies in this distinctive human power. My new book deals with how to heighten future consciousness so as to best facilitate purposeful evolution within ourselves and the world around us. This will be the pathway to the good future. It will be a self-responsible self-directed future oriented journey in self-evolution.

Question 5: Two other key ideas in your book are character development and wisdom. As you see it, how do these capacities serve evolution and creating a good future?

Answer: I describe excellence in the capacities of future consciousness in terms of a set of psychologically holistic character virtues. Earlier I highlighted self-responsibility, commitment, and tenacity, which are some of the character virtues of heightened future consciousness. Other character virtues include hope and optimism, deep purpose, the love and skill of learning and thinking, and cosmic consciousness.

Our self-evolution through the heightening of future consciousness needs to include all the major dimensions of the human mind from emotion and desire to thought and imagination. We need to pursue a balanced vision of human evolution. Character virtues provide holistic principles of human excellence for all the dimensions of heightened future consciousness.

When the character virtues of heightened future consciousness are synthesized, the result is wisdom. A contemporary vision of wisdom is a future-focused, self-evolutionary, dynamic capacity for facilitating positive change and well-being within ourselves and others. Wisdom is the highest expression of future consciousness.

Wisdom provides a credible and compelling human ideal. Our goal of future purposeful self-evolution should not simply be to become more intelligent and informed; we can best guide our future when we incorporate emotion, insight, personal meaning and self-development, love and social connection, and ethics and beauty into our heightened future consciousness as well. Wisdom embodies all these features and is the means to creating the good future. It is the ideal toward which we should aspire in our individual and collective evolution.

Instead of making specific resolutions for the New Year, we should commit ourselves to improving our capacity for making wise and self-evolutionary changes for our extended future. With self-responsibility we can resolve to enhance our ability for purposeful evolution, to pursue the ongoing heightening of future consciousness and wisdom within us. We should live a wisdom narrative for our future.

Question 6: How could we learn more about your philosophy for creating a good future and how to implement this way of thinking in our lives?

Answer: There are many different resources for delving deeper into the philosophy of heightened future consciousness, wisdom, and purposeful evolution. Aside from my new book, Future Consciousness: The Path to Purposeful Evolution, my websites Center for Future Consciousness  and The Wisdom Page a host of relevant articles, book chapters, and videos that expand and enrich on the ideas presented in this interview. Readers can subscribe to my newsletter Wisdom and the Future through either of the above websites. Readers can also follow the CFC on Facebook. There is a new online course covering the book that can be accessed through the CFC website.

This interview only scratches the surface of this philosophy. In entering into this universe of ideas you will open your awareness to an “understanding of your conscious mind and how to realize the good future that is anchored to a vision of the evolutionary cosmos and your place within it.” Thatʼs a good place to start the New Year and set a different direction for the “Time of Your Life.”

Future Consciousness: The Path to Purposeful Evolution 

Paperback £31.99 || $49.95 : Amazon USA

e-book £17.99 || $26.99 : Amazon USA

 

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