Life – Past, Present and Future

‘She clings to me.’ ‘He never lets go of me.’ Men and women make such statements when they are in a relationship that is not exactly perfect – well, if any relationship at any point in time can be perfect at all! Interestingly, the man or the woman says it either to themselves or to someone else – that is, they wonder or rue alone or complain to someone they know. More important, although the statement or observation is in the nature of describing a person’s trait, it is made in the light of or as a consequence of what happened in the past, recent or remote. It may be reasonably assumed that the person of whom the statement is made displayed a temperament consistently over a period of time which caused the partner to make that statement. It is also possible that the behaviour met with resistance initially, but when it persisted it was labelled. In a sense, whoever makes that statement of the other is affected by and apprehensive about the past behaviour or happening and hence is living in the past. Perhaps, the woman who is thought of or accused of clinging is also living in the past, for she suspects that a previous relationship failed because she was careless and she is therefore exercising extreme caution in the current relationship, and her sense of caution impinges upon her partner’s calm who feels discomfort on account of her urgency. It appears that if only both let go of the past, the relationship might assume strength and stability. That brings us to a consideration of the past, present and future.

To someone who is yet to come out of a state of depression caused by a loss sustained months ago, we say, ‘don’t live in the past’, ‘move on’ or words to that effect meant to encourage them to live in the present and enjoy life. When we see someone who is frequently dreaming about the future and maybe overenthusiastic about his plans, we may warn them against getting so lost in the future that they do little or nothing now for it to happen later. We try to pull forward those lost in the past and pull back those wandering in the future, assuming rather breezily that we are firmly rooted in the present and have the strength to apply the force in the required direction.

Leaving the future aside, let’s look at the past. What does the past have to offer us, give us and help us? Does it do any of these? Can it do any of these? How does a mother feel after the shock and immediacy of the loss of her child are gone? When the loss is a thing of the past, can she completely recover? Does she? In moments of grief, how does she hold herself intact? Will looking through a photo album or watching a video of her child make her feel normal? Will the reminiscing help her forget about her loss, even momentarily? Will the smiling child in the pictures and the video bring a smile to her face or produce tears?

Let’s consider the category of pleasant occurrences and experiences of the past. Imagine that you plan a vacation to your favourite spot with friends. Your wife suggests that the financial situation being what it is you look through the photo album of your previous visit there. Will you take her suggestion? Will it meet your need for a break from routine?

Like the body cleanses itself through the discharge of unwanted matter and needs fresh sustenance, the thinking apparatus or the repository of memories, call it mind or brain or whatever, has to unload and let go of stuff accumulated over time. The past is no more and no less painful and pleasant, no more and no less helpful and harmful than we allow it to be.

The unloading may not be easy, is arguably impossible, yet the attempt is necessary to move on and live life instead of looking at it by living the past. Does a good doctor need a patient’s history to decide on and administer the right course of treatment? Will not a thorough unbiased examination of the patient’s condition tell him all that he needs to know? To take another example, what does the commemoration of a nation’s independence from colonial rule achieve? It inculcates a sense of patriotism, probably in an exaggerated way in these stressful times. It is history and our obsessive and insistent recalling and recording of it that has led to longstanding enmities between peoples, manifesting in specters of revenge and hatred.

When we look at life, analysing and dissecting it, we live in the past and the future, caught up and torn among dreams and nightmares, but when we live life we live in the present, allowing ordinary and eventful moments alike to fade away and awaiting new yet-to-experience moments.



About Vaidy

Freelance writer based in Chennai, India. Writes in English and Tamil. Recent major assignments have been in Transcreation - adaptation of TV Commercials from English to Tamil.
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