The forever "I"
Whenever the word “I” (or “you”) is used (or implied), it refers to a being that exists in and inside of time, at least for the duration of that individual’s life. For example, when I use (say or think) the word “I,” I refer generally to the same individual called Dwight who existed twenty years ago, last January, and yesterday. That “I” refers equally to the being that will (probably) exist tomorrow, in 30 days from now, and ten years hence. Of course, this “I” also indicates the same being as he exists now.
What you can say with a time-binding "I"
With this definition and declaration of a time-binding and time-inclusive “I,” we are able to think and speak these types assertions, requests, promises, and declarations, all of which bind time:
“I think it will rain tomorrow.”
“I remember it snowed yesterday.”
“I predict my mother will arrive on time and she will be wearing a hat.”
“If you give me four oranges and three apples, I predict (with certainty) that I will have seven pieces of fruit.”
“Last time I lent you money, you did not return it, so I will not lend you money again.”
“Will you give me a ride home?”
“I will treat you for lunch Saturday.”
“If you call me, I will not answer.”
“I will accept the vendor’s hot dog and, in exchange, give her $2.00”
“From now on, please call me by my new name Jeffery.”
“This website is available 24/7.”
“I will never drink again. I am now a non-drinker.”
“I want you to kiss me.”
“I promise to pay you weekly for your services.”
“If you call me in the morning, I will have a surprise for you.”
“By believing in Jesus Christ as my savior, I predict (know, believe) I will go to heaven after I die.”
“If I act like a normal person, I predict (expect) others will accept me and even like me.”
“I” generalizes an individual over time. It declares the existence of ‘something’ that is not knowable in the same concrete sense as a person in-the-moment, a cat, a stove, a sound, or a sensation is knowable.
Surviving and thriving with an "I"
But of what use is this “I” to the individual if it does not have some power to benefit that individual through the binding of behaviors though time?
To this end this “I,” through its emergence in the infant, the child, into the teenager and the adult, has the ability to make choices, to make requests, to make promises, and to make declarations, all in service to that individual and to others. These powers of our “I” give us humans the potential to survive and thrive in ways that leave the non-time-binding beings (animals) in the dust (think pollution, if you will...LOL).
The first big "I" problem
But there’s a problem. A big one.
Our mammalian ancestors were non-time binders for one hundred million years (and their ancestors even longer than that). In contrast, we humans have been time binders for a mere million or so years. Evolution works by hook or crook and is rarely optimal. In its design of in-the-moment animals, however, nature seems to have been able to instill contentment (“happiness”), since they are always just “being here now.” My cat Princess inspires me in her capacity to “be happy doing nothing.” Nevertheless, in stepping into this new arena of time-binding animals (with homo sapiens as the only survivors in this new arena) and endowing them with immense survival powers compared to non-time-binding animals, nature did not take the time to set it up so that contentment and happiness was necessarily included in the package. Survival trumped happiness.
In nature’s rush to cash in on the survival benefits of time binding, she ended up creating we humans with a strong tendency to forget the contentment and joys of living in the now and to put a larger focus on getting results (in the future). As humans, for the sake of happiness, we cannot go back to being non-time-binding animals. Even if, as an individual, you tried to unbind time, that would be a time-binding intention (for the future). Our default tendencies easily trap us in the worlds of the future (and the past).
The solution: NNI
What we can do, at least as individuals, is to work on creating alignment and integrity between the more non-time-binding part of ourselves (our my-now) and the time-binding part of ourselves (our my-next). When our my-next is happy but our my-now is unhappy, we are unhappy. When our my-now is happy but our my-next is unhappy, we are unhappy. Only by creating and maintaining my-now/my-next integrity (NNI) can we be more fully and continuously happy and fulfilled.
The second big "I" problem
But wait. There’s another level to the problem.
When nature endowed us with time binding, she also bestowed a new domain of possibilities and variabilities that could exist between and among individuals (who were also able to time bind):
No monkey ever said, “I’ll trade you an apple for a banana.”
No gorillas ever agreed, “Why don’t you plant some fruit trees while I guard the village.”
No two rabbits ever promised to each other, “I’ll love you forever, forsaking all others.”
No dog ever said to another dog, “You broke your promise to me, bitch. I hate you and never want to see you again.”
No drake ever said to a duck, “I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow when you’re having lunch.”
No dolphin ever shared with her playmates, “I think Republicans are heartless.”
No father racoon ever required, “Give me five fish every day for a year and then you can marry and have sex with my daughter.”
No lion ever complained to another lion, “You were greedy and unfair to me and the other lions by eating the lion’s share of that antelope.”
With in-the-moment animals, their relationships with others are now-oriented and extend over time only by their instincts and their in-the-moment desires (as they may serve the future by evolutionary design), not by any rational considerations. Additionally, the “balance” between taking care of themselves as individuals and “altruistic” behavior is driven by in-the-moment stimulations, combined with their built-in instincts.
We time-binding humans, in contrast, are thrown into a world in which we often interact and transact with scores of other humans, with our influence extending well beyond those we affect directly (especially with the power of language, enhanced modern communication, and commerce).
We are thrown into a world that includes merging our “I” identity with different groups or different ideas, often in opposition to each other: family, non-family, women, men, black, white, Americans, Chinese, socialist, libertarian, a good person, a pragmatic person, and so on.
We are thrown into a world in which we may have to be responsible for an uncountable number of prior events: your son complains, “As a father you didn’t make me feel safe when I was a kid.”
We are thrown into a world in which we “acquire” hundreds of obvious and not-so-obvious expectations and responsibilities and accountabilities to our culture, to our family, to our friends, to our colleagues, to our company, to our community, to our government, to acquaintances, and even to strangers.
We are thrown into a world in which we have innumerable pressures and opportunities that we could respond to in order to either influence or control the future we would like (or would like to avoid), both for ourselves and for others.
We are thrown into a world in which the number and complexity of choices that we can be aware of are galactic in comparison with the earth-bound choices that would occur to an in-the-moment mammal.
These are our blessings and these are our curses.
The "solutions" kept the problems alive
The good news is that, with better and more accurate operational paradigms and ideas, we can maximize the blessings and minimize the curses.
In stepping into the world of time, humans encountered two new sets of problems (and opportunities) that do not occur for (and therefore do not exist for) the in-the-moment animals.
The first, and more fundamental problems, are the conflicts that often arise within each one of us of how to take care of now (being happy now) and how to take care of the future (being happy in the future).
The second type of problems are the conflicts that often arise within each one of us of how to take care of our own personal self-interest (both currently and in the future) and how to take care of the self-interests of others (also currently and in the future).
Although not necessarily framed in these words, ethicists, philosophers, and religious leaders, and, by default, even our cultures, have been trying to address these two issues for millennia.
Unfortunately, perhaps because of their poor framing of the problem, nearly 100% of their conclusions perpetuate the these two fundamental conflicts, rather than moving us in a consistent direction of resolution.
The "solution" set us up for a war
Although various thinkers about these issues are and were never fully consistent, the main thrust of their solutions for the first problem are: work hard, persistence, self-discipline, will-power, self-restraint, don’t be lazy, and sacrifice now for the future. In short: give up happiness now for happiness in the future, whether the future be a few minutes or a few years from now (if you’re religious that “future” that you’re currently paying for in order to enjoy later may not come until after you die). These thinkers made my-next (the part of us that wants our future to be good) the good guy and my-now (the part of us that just wants to feel good now) the bad guy. Consequently, we are often at war within ourselves: “I feel guilty because I am so lazy that I don’t want to exercise.”
Not just one war, but two
For the second fundamental ethical question, the thinkers and our cultures provided another solution which perpetuates another war. Their prescriptions are: think of others first, fulfill your duty to society, to give is better than to receive, the good person puts others’ welfare above his own, and don’t be selfish. In short: living for others is noble; living for yourself is petty and ungenerous. This ethics makes my-you (the part of us that cares for others and wants to look good to others) the good guy and my-me (the part of us that wants to take care of our own self-interests) the bad guy. No wonder we are often at war within ourselves: “I feel guilty that I didn’t want to lend money to my friend.”
Questions to create peace and integrity
“Ask Dwight How” shows the way towards peace and an end to these wars. It solves any my-now/my-next conflicts by providing questions and methods to create NNI (now/next integrity, the foundation for all integrity). It then goes onto to resolve any my-me/my-you conflicts by providing questions and methods to create MYI (my-me/my-you integrity, the basic structures that are supported by the foundation).
Questions that lead to
peace and integrity
between my-now and my-next (NNI)
Here are a few of those questions that will support you to repeatedly bring resolution to any my-now/my-next issues:
“How can I redesign my life so that my-now and my-next can both win?”
“In the circumstance I am faced with right now, how can my-now and my-next both be happy?”
“For a result that my-next is interested in, how can my-now enjoy and be excited about the process(es) involved in moving towards that result?”
“Is my-next showing respect and consideration for what my-now is interested in?”
“Is my-next forsaking blame and pressure as a way to get my-now to do what my-next wants?”
“Does my-next acknowledge that quitting may be just as as valid (and courageous) an option as persistence?”
“Am I making friends with my fear (undoing fear and choosing courage) as a way to create better alignment between my-now and my-next?”
“Am I creating and taking things step by step, celebrating the wins of each step?”
“Am I choosing courage to accept the risk (make friends with the fear) that things may not turn out the way that I would like?”
"Am I tolerating some circumstance? Am I taking this as a red flag to choose courage so that I am no longer tolerating this circumstance?"
“Am I bringing my awareness to now, immersing myself in the okayness of every moment?”
“Am I speaking and feeling detailed gratitude for all that I have, all that I experience, and all that is already working as I would like?”
“Am I present to the fact that I have enough to eat and, after that, everything else is a game?”
“In planning my day or week, am I setting it up so that my-now (enjoying the process) and my-next (getting some results) can both win? Am I under promising?”
Questions that lead to
peace and integrity
between my-me and my-you (MYI)
Here are a few of those questions that will support you to repeatedly bring resolution to any my-me/my-you issues:
“How can I redesign my life so that my-me (both short-term and long-term) and my-you (both short-term and long-term) can both win?”
“In this circumstance right now, how can my-me and my-you both be happy?”
“Regarding this my-me/my-you issue, am I getting in someone else’s business or in God’s business, rather than tending to my own business?”
“Am I choosing courage to make requests of others to facilitate a my-me/my-you win?”
“Am I choosing courage to say ‘no’ to others to facilitate a my-me/my-you win?”
“Am I honoring myself for choosing courage, regardless of the outcome?”
“Am I choosing courage to set and maintain good boundaries with others to facilitate a my-me/my-you win?”
"Am I tolerating another person? Am I taking this as a red flag to choose courage so that I am no longer tolerating this person?"
“Am I acknowledging and recognizing that the best world for everyone is a world in which ways are found for each person’s self-interest (short-term and long-term) reinforces the self-interest of others with whom that person interacts and transacts with?”
“Am I acknowledging that, should there seem to be an unresolvable conflict between my self-interest (both short-term and long-term) and the self-interest of another (both short-term and long-term), then my number one priority is to take care of myself, just as their number one priority is to take care of themselves?”
“Am I choosing courage (undoing fear) to let go of blame towards another to foster curiosity and interest in creating/discovering win-win solutions?”
“Am I recognizing the truth of the expression, ‘Defense is the first act of war’ (Byron Katie)? Am I choosing courage to create an attitude of good will, curiosity, and partnership with others, letting go of blame and defensiveness?”
“Am I showing respect and consideration for others being self-interested just as I show respect and consideration for my own self-interests?”
“Am practicing the power of listening and being deeply interested in understanding another’s interests and perspectives? Are they getting that I am listening to them? Am I remembering Stephen Covey’s ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’?”
“When in conversation with another, am I focused on being present with them, perhaps even seeking to connect soul-to-soul with them?”
Peace, integrity, and happiness
Let’s end the wars. The time has come in your life for peace, integrity, and happiness. You now know the questions to keeping asking to move you along that path to peace. As you ask yourself these questions again and again, you will discover and be reminded of the answers that will mend the rift and bridge the gap between your my-now and your my-next, between your my-me and your my-you, creating joy both in the processes and the results, both in your selfishness and in your caring for others.
Use “Ask Dwight How” to develop and master your skills and practices on this life journey.