Continuing with my endeavours to sample every ice cream desert in Kata, tonight I tried a dessert called a “Bang Bang” which consists of three scoops of ice cream – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate – along with fresh mango sandwiched between two slices of wholemeal bread. Evaporated milk is served on the side for pouring over the bread. The entire affair was absolutely delicious but, as I had half expected, indulging in the delightful desert led to my intermittent stomach problem whereby I am unable to digest what I have eaten. The result is that I develop a severe stomach ache and a few hours later I have to stick my fingers as far down my throat as possible in order to make myself throw up.
My suspicion is that my inability to digest what I have eaten has to do with consuming particular food combinations. Pizza dough and bread will, for example, more often than not cause the problem to occur no matter the quantity of pizza or bread is consumed. I know that I could consult with my GP regarding what might be wrong with me but I find myself incapable of raising yet another medical problem to add to my not insubstantial list of ailments. In any case, I do not mind the fact of having to make myself vomit. I have become very adept at achieving the desired outcome. The only point that really bothered me experiencing the stomach pain whilst on holiday is that I was reminded of my home life where the necessity of emptying out of my stomach occurs a couple of times a week.
As a result of certain experiences in Kata, I find myself reflecting upon the way in which we make sense of the world around us. I shall begin with a mundane example and move on to some other thoughts. Essentially we make sense of the world in terms of our existing stock of knowledge or in terms of “what we already know.” A mundane example. The produce carts in Thailand are laden with multifarious fruits, most of which I recognize. However, there are some fruits that are not familiar to me. I know that they are fruits because they are on a cart with other fruits that I recognize. Oranges, mangoes, pineapples for example.
Mundane examples might be multiplied almost endlessly but, ultimately, I am not concerned with our everyday interpretations of the world. I am thinking more in terms of how our accumulated experiences dictate, to one degree or another, the ways in which we interpret new experiences. In this respect I am tempted to say that the ways in which we make sense of the world, limit the possibilities in the present. In this respect, I have had various experiences in Kata that have resonated with past experiences. The details do not really matter. The point is, that finding myself in a particular situation, I have interpreted the possibilities of that situation in terms of past experiences.
Equally, I have anticipated the outcomes of the experiences in terms of the outcomes of my past experiences. This fact of so interpreting my experiences has “determined” to one degree or another what has happened in the present. Likely, it has also “determined” to one degree or another what might happen in the future. In this respect I am deeply aware that I might have limited both the present and the future. So to a point about being fully present. Being fully present in the moment may mean something like experiencing each and every moment as it is in the purity and non complexity of the moment. Conversely, it might mean ensuring that any thoughts about the past and the future are in abeyance.
In terms of the practicalities of being present in the moment, we might make a distinction between interpretation, anticipation and imagination. Interpreting the world is a constant and ongoing process based on what we already know. If we gain new knowledge then we make it “fit” in one way or another with our existing stock of knowledge. At an extreme this “fitting” can sometimes be transformative as is the case when we discover something entirely new. Anticipating is something that we do with respect to the future and based upon what we already know. For example, believing that the outcome of a present situation will be similar to the outcome of a past situation because that is what our experience tells us.
Imagination, which on one definition refers to, “the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses” constitutes the capacity through which we are able to bring about a future that results from our desire for something different or better. It would be fair to say that, unlike interpreting and anticipating, imagination enables us to transcend our current conditions. The reason for this fact is that imagining is about more than creating images of concepts not present to the senses. The creative imagination can conjure up new ways of seeing the world or new ways of representing reality, ways that are constituted by a significant break from the present.
These thoughts might seem a little esoteric but there is an important practical point here. Our default position is to continue with our lives in terms of interpreting our days and anticipating our future. Imagining a different future requires a particular effort along with setting about finding catalysts for the imagination that might provoke a certain sort of day-dreaming. Through imagining and through day dreaming our possibilities for the future expand exponentially. This point is surely significant in a Covid-19 world. I make this point because I believe that it would be nothing short of an existential tragedy to live through this pandemic without fundamentally reflecting upon what a different future for one’s life would look like.
First Published March 8th, 2020