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Clinging to the "present" does little to build a new, different future

Too often through social networks I get messages inviting me to no longer talk so much about the future and to concentrate on the “present”, the “now”, since, according to those who send me those messages, the “now” is what really exists and, therefore, dealing with the past or the future is, at best, an unnecessary waste of time.

These messages, generally well intentioned, include beautiful phrases like “The ‘now’ a gift. That is why it is called present” or “If you feel anguish, you are in the past. If you feel anxiety, you are in the future. But if you feel peace, you are in the present.”

These phrases and similar ones, although inspiring, reveal a fundamental ignorance of human temporality and a only superficial reflection on time, since, at the same time that the “present” is confused with the current moment, it is affirmed that neither the past neither the future exists and, therefore, we should not pay too much attention to them. 

But that approach fragments and wrongly divides an experience that we existentially feel precisely as undivided because we live time all at once. We remember the past in the present and we anticipate the future in the present. And both the past and the future endure (although they change constantly), while the present vanishes.

Augustine of Hippo rightly said in his Confessions that in the same way that there is a memory of the past there is also a memory of the present and, even more, there is also a memory of the future. And he is right, because "memory" and "remembering" are not the same.

"Memory" comes from the Latin word “memoria” which, in turn, comes from the Latin "memor", which meant "full consciousness", especially constant awareness of something important that, precisely because it is of high interest, deserves our constant attention.

Only in the 14th century "memory" began to be associated with the faculty of remembering and only in the 16th century “memory” was defined as the set of observations from the past still present in our minds.

But long before the meaning of "memory" changed, memory was associated with creativity at its best: arts, thought, science. Among the Greeks, Mnemosyne ("Memory") was the mother of the Muses, that is, of all the inspiring forces humans access to create.

Assuming that talking about the future is a mistake because the future does not yet exist is itself a mistake because it means ignoring that the future already exists in its present future form. In the same way, to "forget" the past is to ignore that the past still exists as the present past.

Believing that the present is the only thing that exists when, in reality, it is the only thing that does not exist, is to cling to the non-existent. And that is the nihilistic ground of anguish and anxiety.

Therefore, to conclude, as the Spanish writer Enrique Santín said, “You remember the past. You live the present. You think the future”.

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