What a Living Future Means To Me

Kurt Hoelting
Kurt Hoelting

Next month, on April 1 - 3, 2015, the International Living Future Institute will hold its annual conference in Seattle. The theme of this year's conference is one that is dear to my heart: Place and Community. I am honored to be one of the speakers at this conference. In preparation I was asked to write a brief response to the question "What Does a Living Future Means To Me?" I have posted my response here, which will also be featured in the Living Future March Newsletter.


A living future grows out of a living present. This is a truth that often goes missing in the fog of anxiety or overwhelm that can cloud a change-maker's heart. In that sense the words “living future” form a useful but often self-limiting oxymoron.

Only humans, so far as we know, have been gifted by evolution with the capacity to voyage across time. This is an astonishing power. It allows us to house in our memories vast historical and cultural archives, bringing our past into our present. And through the power of creative imagination we can send our innovative footprints far into the future.

But strictly speaking, there is no such thing as “past” or “future”. They are potent figments of our uniquely human imagination. No part of the natural world exists outside the present moment, with the sole exception of the human mind. Like the rest of nature, the human body knows no other time but Now, performing billions of self-regulating processes every second to keep our bodily systems alive, tuned and thriving – always and exclusively in present time. In all of nature, the human mind is the sole outlier in this regard, leaving even its own body behind in the process, often at great cost to our health.

Maybe this is why we have such a powerful need as humans for connect with wild nature. Surrounding our senses in climax ecosystems brings the mind back into alignment with Deep Time. It brings the human heart into the presence of Presence. Experiencing the myriad ways that nature creates beauty by weaving transience and death directly into the heartbeat of life temporarily calms our fear of death. Life thrives in the flow of that elusive place beyond the fear of death. Nature shows us how to end our fruitless human war with nature, and with our own limits, by waking us up to the beauty of Now. Role models for radical, fearless presence exist literally everywhere we look when we can break the trance of human separation and control.

Because of this current of aliveness, the present moment is the place where gratitude and hope also thrive. In that sense, only the present moment can launch the choices that actually lead to a living future. Attuning ourselves to what is alive in the moment, within us and in the world around us, is a radical act of transformation. Knowing how to join the rest of nature in accessing the aliveness of the moment-at-hand is a profound gateway to resilience, restoration and homecoming.