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The Past and What Is Life

I can’t find an attribution I trust for this first quote; it’s all over the Internet. Thanks to my daughter, who saw it on a web site:
“When your past calls, don't answer. It has nothing new to say.”

I don’t necessarily believe it, but it seems like good advice for most people, most of the time.

And of course, there is William Faulkner:
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

For some reason, these quotes reminded me of another:
"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans"

--Allen Saunders, American writer, 1957

While I’m on the subject, I’ll repeat a quotation I first offered in April (I am sure of the provenance because I copied it out of the book while I was reading it):
"It’s not that you ever get to make the one, big dramatic decision that determines your future. Unfortunately, your life is ruled by 10,000 chickenshit, spur of the moment decisions that, over a period of time, add up to make your life what it is."

--Tom Wicker, Facing the Lions


Robert E Malchman

I cannot tell you how much I disagree with the first quotation. Understanding the past is absolutely critical to being the best we can in the present. At an individual level, understanding why one reacts as one does (hint, it often relates to past emotional trauma) is essential to reacting appropriately to what is in front of us *now*, as opposed to what was in the past, but unresolved.

At a macro level, I subscribe to Santayana's view that those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them. To give one current example, to understand race relations and the scope and effect of institutional racism today, one has to understand the history of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the civil rights struggle, the legislation of the 1960s, Nixon's Southern Strategy, dog-whistles from Reagan and the Bushes, and the megaphone of Trump. I agree with Faulkner: The past is not even the past.

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