Concerning “the Past”

 

Is it possible that we have all this time had a mistaken assumption of our surroundings? There are numerous issues that could, in one way or another, instantly lead us to some conclusive judgment.  To cite only a few: When we try to recall our past, the death of someone a year ago, and events a few hours back, are these not just a present attempt to retrieve the things stored as a memory? When we throw a ball from points A to B, for instance, we tend to say that the ball was at point A. Does this not mean that at the time the ball was at point A, the rays reflected by the ball left an impression or were recorded in our brains, and that it is this impression or record that we are trying to retrace at the present? Another example: When we move from our original location (say location A) to another location (say location B), we are apt to say—at the time we get to B—we were at A just now. The only reason for this is that, at the time we were at A, all our senses received a variety of stimuli from our surroundings, and  these are stored in our brains as memory. At the time we get to B, we recall them, which consequently leads us to say that we were at A just now. Similarly, when we are driving from one particular place to another, we will, for a similar reason, habitually say that we were at that particular place at the time we get to our destination.  Now, what if we assume our earth to be a kind of vehicle? Is it not a fact that the earth rotates around its axis and that we are but objects that have remained stuck on the earth’s crust following the earth wherever it goes? The earth takes us with it as it rotates such that we are able to feel the presence of day and night. At the time we are brought from one position to another by the earth’s rotation, we record a series of conditions, which, when recalled, leads us to say that in “the past” we experienced such and such a condition. Quite surprisingly, however, at all those “moments,” either the ones that we are experiencing or the ones we are recalling, we have always felt that we are at or undergoing things at the present. At the time of recalling we assume that “the past” exists, though in reality we have never felt or experienced the presence of that “past.”  Does it ever occur to you that at the time you are reading the sentences above you feel that you are at “the present,” and that even when you start thinking that you have just read the sentences above, you are in fact also doing it at “the present”? It is as if we have, since our childhood, always experienced “the present.” Even a photograph of the past is no indication of the presence of the past, because what is considered the past, which is immortalized by the photograph, is a mere assumption we make at the present. Physically speaking, the photograph itself is in its present condition, though it may have by now been discolored, or faded. We feel that we have “a past” only because the past condition leaves a trace in our brains.

 

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