Scattered Reflections on Relating to the Past

Some people appreciate the past and use it to enrich the present; others use it as ammunition to blast the present into pieces.

Some know how to let old bones rest; others dig them up and use them as weapons.

Some learn to let go of the past; others cling to it and make themselves and everyone around them suffer as a result.


To fully understand the present, we must endeavour to understand the past, for the present perpetually flows out of the past and the tapestry of the present is woven out of the woolen threads of the past.

We cannot  fully understand the present, however, by simply understanding the past because the present is in constant flux and constant movement away from the past; things do not remain as they were, they change into new forms.  Nietzsche’s myth of endless recurrence does not hold true; while some themes in human life remain constant, their expressions are every changing.  The essence of life is not static replication, but perpetual transformation.


The spontaneity and novelty of the present cannot be grasped simply by gazing into the past; we must seize the raw vitality of the now by means of direct, mindful experience in order to understand these things.   We must dive into the present if we are to get the most out of it.


When you eat an apple in the present, do not compare it with past apples you have eaten and find it lacking in comparison.  By comparing the present apple to the shades of apples from the past, the real, actual apple gets eclipsed.  Eat the apple as if it were the first apple  you have ever eaten.  Savor every bit of texture, every nuance of taste.  Whether it is sweet or sour, smooth or tart, soft or hard, enjoy it for what it is.  Embrace the reality of its being as it is.  The more of reality we relate to in this way, the more we will appreciate it for what it is, not what it is in arbitrary relation to this or that other thing.


The past is like water; it can nourish you or drown you, carry you forward or sink you in its depths.  Just as we  wisely relate to water, so must we relate wisely to the past.

To relate wisely to the past, we must learn to drink from it, but not drown in it;
Coast along it, but do not sink into memories of it;
learn from it, but do not lose ourselves in it;
Flow like it, but do not be swept away by it.


The past is like a shining jewel, waiting to be discovered–
But if you reach out to grab it, be careful not to be blinded by its glare.


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