Non-extant past

The past is one of those things that although it doesn’t exist, it can cause trouble, we think.

It is quite paradoxical to think so, as when we say that something was in the past, we mean it is no longer in present and in the future. So how could it possibly cause trouble now?

It is the person itself that brings bits and pieces from the past into present time, for some reasons. Some reasons are personal, while some others are related to our interaction with others and life in general. You couldn’t keep a schedule, unless you remembered it. If you want to go to work like yesterday, you’ll need to remember to do so. And prior to that there is a decision to remember in the future to do so.

It is that decision that matters, as without it, that schedule wouldn’t exist.

One has a fight with John, and he thinks to himself that John is an a-hole, and he will neither like nor to talk to John anymore. After a few days he meets John and wonders to himself what he knows about him. Those thought come up (as he brings them up) and probably also how he was feeling back at that time comes up too. So, he is not feeling that good about that a-hole now.

You would think it’s because they had a fight a few days ago,  but it’s his thinking in present that makes it happen. He is using the past to know about John. He is not observing him in present.

And so you get a perpetuation of past conditions into the present and the future. You get that by doing it yourself. And when many interact with each other in such a manner, that becomes reality.

If you took out all that complex thinking to use past experiences to know, what would people know about themselves, about each other, about life? Yes. And what do you know, when you have a nothing, a blank sheet of paper, you can also put what you decide (in present) to put there. And on the contrary, as you use the past to know in present, you are determined by it. In fact you are still determined by yourself, but very indirectly, and in some very confusing manner. I mean imagine having had thousands of experiences with John, some good some bad, and also things you’ve heard about John, things you’ve assumed about John, things you’ve thought about groups (racial, political or other) that John belongs to, and then trying to know him… No matter how good at human evaluation you were, you still wouldn’t know John in present.

They say more knowledge is always better. But what knowledge? One sees a guy, and obviously it’s a guy, but he tries to figure him out. He pus meaning on him, and then he perceives it back and analyses it. That way one can be mad at you without having met you before.

Moreover, some do that to themselves all the time. ‘What wrong with me?’ One wonders and although he never quite knew, he uses that past knowledge that he was also using yesterday and the years before in hope to know himself in present.

I am nothing and there is nothing to know. And I can be like this and like that and like whatever I choose to, each moment. I could be an a-hole too, if somebody told me what a-hole means.

Society would be nothing like we know, without that bizarre idea that some non-extant past is in the present. How could anyone sign any sort of a contract, take a loan, have a bank account, rent an apartment, have a diploma, an identity card with an assigned name and number, to remind him who he is (and eventually, even believe it himself), without it? How could anyone be held accountable for what he had done 15 years ago? No matter how used we might be to it, it is based on bizarre notions.

Yes, all those are based on memories, not on anything currently existing. And most often are quite altered memories too. We are taught to think with the past. Without that, we couldn’t get good grades at school. And then we agree among each other to operate based on that.

In actuality, the present is pretty blank, unless you fill it with something. And you will have much more control over it, if you know that it’s you who fills it, as well as what you fill it with.


2 thoughts on “Non-extant past

  1. Fascinating idea, Spyros! I’m not sure I’d want to live that way because I love learning so much, and learning requires continuity (i.e. the past), but this is a wonderful thought experiment. I’m sitting here just trying to imagine the world I perceive as it is, without the taint of prior experience… Difficult, but fun…

    Of course, in order to enjoy it, some of the past must bleed through. I need to remember this post, and what I’m trying to do. Otherwise, the whole exercise is meaningless, featureless, and without context; therefore, not enjoyable… 🙂

    1. Yes, I guess the material universe has that continuity. But I think it continues for things that are part of it and continue as well, like the human body. It doesn’t HAVE to exclusively occupy our thought world though.

      What I try to relay is the ‘doesn’t have to’. One can have control over it.

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