We do not always plot our futures. Things happen by accident, in defiance of our best laid plans. However well we think we know the past, the future is impossible to predict. There is no linear connection between the two. I abhor teleological thinking which tries to make such simple linearities between past, present and future.
Neither future nor past exist of course except in our imaginations, when most often we use them to justify what we do in the present. This leaves me with a dilemma. My fascination with the past is in the differences it offers us, in the disjunctures, in its deadends and failures. In the potential is offers for alternative presents.
A famous blog repeatedly asks: 'How are we humanists going to to contribute to the sum happiness of the future?' But I have trouble with this. Because I just don't know understand what this Future they keep referring to is. I must have a few genes missing somewhere.
Reading list please?I posted this on her Journal:
Okay, Violet, don't give up on the future yet, even if, as you rightly suspect, traditional teleologies are somewhat bankrupt. It may be that making a decision to think about the future is an ethical choice--i.e., I can only inhabit a certain present [albeit, that present is mainly defined by the continual traffic in my brain between "that already happened" & "that's where I think I'm going"], and I can certainly just concentrate on inhabiting that present in a kind of fullness of awareness of "nows" strung along a continuum, but if I want to be ethical, and think about others, not just those alongside me, but those behind me, and even up ahead of me, I can't discard the future. Think of Walter Benjamin's statement, in his "Theses for a Philosophy of History," that the claims of the past upon the present cannot be "settled cheaply," and also, that those in the past are always turning [leaning] toward "the sun that is rising in the sky of history."Of course, this is a mainly too-brief and summary answer, and I actually think Violet's assertion that neither past nor future exist, except in our imaginations, is really important, and we should maybe spend some time here debating that assertion. I have two minds on the subject. The first says, "Duh! Of course we're always inventing the past and present--the former is over and gone, and the latter is not yet here--therefore, the past and future are mainly what we need them to be at any given moment and are essentially ungraspable." My second mind says, "Just because the past and future are ungraspable by me, at any given present moment, does not negate their very real and materially vibrant existence, either just behind or just up ahead of me." And I think, further, that striving to encounter, and even "reckon" the materality of both the past and present [either through a kind of historical "accounting" or by actions, especially loving actions, designed to affect certain forward motions, respectively], could be very important ethical gestures par excellence. If I have any secretly heretical notions on the subject, it's that the future may matter a hell of a lot more than the past, and that the past can even, occasionally, be a heavy drag on the future's progressive momentum.
Reading list? To hell with a reading list, Violet! You're better than that! Look around you. Everywhere you go, the past and future demand your attention. Try to take every step as if you were a newborn. It's impossible, isnt it? Walk down the street and consider every passerby--where have they been, and what might they be--to you? Every moment is fraught with both history and the possibility of what you might have been, and that, my friend, is the future. No books required.