The Past Is Alive

William and Ariel Durant (1930)Will and Ariel Durant (1930)

“It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time.

You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character, your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.” (As quoted in “The Gentle Philosopher” (2006) by John Little at the Will Durant Foundation)

Durant is correct. The present is the result of the past, and the future will be the result of what preceded it. This thought brings with it unimaginable responsibility, assuming we reject moral nihilism. The choices we make will play a small part in determining whether a better or worse future will come to be or if there will be a future at all. A sobering thought.

In addition to the moral realm, there are great metaphysical questions regarding time. I’ll address those briefly in a future post.

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