TThe future is the great unknown. The future may have formed and unformed elements. The cycling of the seasons, for example, has a lot of temporal momentum behind it and is very likely to continue unless derailed by an enormous shock, such as a giant asteroid impact that creates a version of nuclear winter. The weather on any given day, however, is far less predictable and more subject to butterfly effects, more subject to unpredictable variations. The season when the ground is fertile is roughly formed, but what you choose to plant in the ground may not be. The unformed elements give more space for free will and novelty. It may be fully formed that you are heading toward the great event horizon of death, but what you do on that journey has unformed aspects — a misty landscape you see in vague and shifting outline up ahead. You shape the approaching landscape significantly with your thoughts, choices and actions.
"You-create-your-own-reality" fundamentalists inflate the influence you have into an absurd absolutism (see Dynamic Paradoxicalism — the Anti Ism Ism
) while determinists go in just the opposite direction and deflate individual influence to nothing, envisioning a mechanical universe inhabited by automatons.
From the perspective of eternity, past, present and future are unified, and we connect with this perspective by becoming aware of the nowever in which we always exist.
Think of yourself as a spinning lathe, cutting forms or imprints out of the raw material of the future as it comes down the conveyor belt of linear time. For example, as I write this card, the blank space on the screen below what I have written is like the future, it has unformed potential, the lathe of my mind cuts into that unformed potential by choosing certain words out of an infinite choice of possible letter and word combinations. The text future of the card has some roughly formed elements I also respect. Given the image and the unifying concept I have given the card I will cut out words that stray from the theme. I could choose to go on a tangent on how to cook artichokes, but the relative continuity of my intentions in creating the card is well formed and won't allow that. The unexpected could interfere with what I intend to form out of the raw material of the future coming toward my lathe. For example, my computer could suddenly crash, and this sort of rare event, which depends on variables I have little awareness of, seems impossible for me to forecast. So I keep saving my work, knowing that a crash, like an asteroid impact, is inevitable. If I am overconfident and presume upon the future then I am less prepared for the crash. The unformed and unknowable aspects of the future are essential to the beauty and mystery of life. Although I seem to be the one forming, determining the shape or content of this card, I cannot anticipate, nor would I want to, the future of this card, who might pick it in the future, or the context of the reading and the meaning it may have to unknown future users of the oracle. You who are reading this card are part of that mysterious future unknown to me, and that is part of what makes an oracle a living, dynamic entity. The unknowable aspects of the future are what make life in general dynamic and interesting.
Organisms, including human beings, do have some ability to sense the future, particularly the near future. For example, a well-controlled scientific experiment involved human subjects who were shown a series of images, most of them pleasant or neutral, but a few of them shocking — a gruesome car accident, etc. The order of the images was not known by the experimenters, or even by the computer, which selected the images based on randomizing algorithms performed just a split second before the images were displayed. The subjects were hooked up to biometric sensors like the sort used with lie detectors — galvanic skin response, heart rate, etc. The experiments showed that most subjects registered physiological stress responses several seconds before an upsetting image, even though they were mostly not conscious of any clairvoyant warning. Research on people who were the victims of violent attacks shows that they usually had warning intuitions, though these were usually overridden by their rational minds. Some warning intuitions may be clairvoyant and others may be based on subtle pre-incident indicators, subliminal cues picked up about a person's body language, etc. A careful statistical analysis of plane crashes showed a significantly larger percentage of last minute cancellations for flights that later crashed.
From the perspective of the I Ching, it is crucial not to attempt to prestructure the future. Prestructuring the future is when we build an image of the future in our minds and then presume that the future will comply with the image. For example, we build a fantasy in our mind of a romantic future with a person we find attractive. The prestructured fantasy attempts to control the lifecycle of the relationship, which is a third entity not fully controlled by either party. When we prestructure the future we become clumsy, rigid and diminished in our ability to flow with the spontaneous and unexpected. I Ching scholar Carol Anthony uses tennis to illustrate this principle. If we expect the ball to come across the net in a certain way, we may not be prepared for how it actually comes across. But if we wait on our side of the net with an unstructured attitude, we are ready for anything. There is nothing wrong with planning and scheduling if you are aware of these as strategic and tactical exercises done in present time with the full awareness that unexpected events may come up which will force you to change the plan or schedule.
Relating to the future requires that we have a dynamic relationship to a number of paradoxes: the future as both formed and unformed, the future as unknownable and the future as perceivable by a clairvoyant sense. So as we transition into the unknown we respect these paradoxes, we see the trees that are just up ahead, but are also aware of the misty landscape which we can't fully perceive, but can only discover by journeying into it.