Looking to the Future for Fulfilment: Are You Waiting for Your Ship to Come in?

Photo by Bruno Girin
Spiritual practice can be like a cargo cult. There’s a widespread religious movement in Melanesia where people believe that one day their ship will finally come in, sent by the gods. It will be laden with washing machines, TVs, sofas, cars, fridges, and everything else they have always waited for.


Do you look to the future for fulfilment?


Maybe you’re not waiting for fridges. But what about more intangible goods—such as enlightenment or wisdom? Do you hope that at some point in the future your spiritual practice will finally resolve all difficulties in life?


When I first began training in karate as a lowly white-belt I looked up to the students who had more experience. I watched the colour-belts train and thought, “One day, when I’m a colour-belt, then I’ll be the real thing!” A couple of years later, when I was a colour-belt I thought, “When I’m a black-belt, then I’ll be the real thing!”


Fast forward some years and I was finally in the middle of three hours of hell to attain my first black belt. Finally the master tied it around my waist. At that moment I realised that I had been the real thing all along, ever since my very first class! And I regretted missing out on the joy of each step of the journey, instead of focusing on future attainment.


Waiting for something to happen in the future blocks the light of this moment right now.


There is a fine poem by Philip Larkin, called ‘Next, please’. It is about waiting for what he calls the ‘armada of promises’. The last two verses are as follows:


We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.
But we are wrong:


Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.


Larkin is right: one day we’ll catch up with the future. That’ll be when we end up in a wooden box.


Let’s enjoy life while we’re still alive!


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  1. Ewan says:

    Hear hear!
    This reminds me of a verse from a the indie-pop group Flaming Lips that has been in my head recently.

    ‘I was wanting you to love me
    But your love it never came
    All the other love around me
    Was just wasting all away’

  2. Mary Jaksch says:

    That’s an interesting point, Ewan.
    It’s true when we wait for something to happen we’re in a frozen state. As you lyrics say, if we’re waiting for someone to love us back, we are closed to other opportunities for affection.

  3. Trent M. says:

    This is a great article.
    As if I expected any less! :3
    As I’ve said in other comments, I obsessively plan and think about the future, waiting for the good things to come.
    Now reading your blog, I realize how many great things I take fr granted as being in nature or social events with family or friends.
    Finding your website has made a profound difference and I’m very glad it has. I wish I would have found this place back in 2007 but that’s okay! It’s not to late to make things count now and having a good memory, I can look back and reflect on past situations and enjoy the memory and enjoy the memory of how I felt.
    Just know that if your blog has started to make my life better, I’m sure it already has for some and will for some future visitors.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, method, and philosophy!

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