If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Sunday 28 October 2012
Sorry about the interruption – blame my wretched @#$%& internet server!
Read gnomica 1-150 here!
The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
William Faulkner (25 Sep 1897 – 6 Jul 1962)
A Nobel Laureate in literature for 1949, this American author is not everybody’s cup of tea: he’s not an ‘easy’ read by any means, but he is by all means worthy of a look or two. And today’s epigraph teems with possibilities.
Thus, in talking of Latin and ancient Greek people often speak of “dead languages”. But can a language like Latin that forms the basis for something like 60% of modern English vocabulary really be called dead? Or a language like ancient Greek that forms the basis for an even larger percentage of modern medical vocabulary really be called dead. If anything, both illustrate Faulkner’s notion that the past isn’t even past – it’s very much present! And that’s just in this one ‘little’ example of modern English vocabulary.
But why restrict ourselves to overtly academic concerns? Why not get personal?
And in fact that is more the domain in which my thoughts swirl when I get down to the nitty-gritty of Faulkner’s observation. Thus: yes, of course things that happened to me in 1940 or 1953 or 1980 and so forth and so on are past. But they are not past: they are very much present in me — in some cases uncomfortably so — and much else too of which I may well not be percipiently cognizant … but they are still very much there. And they affect me even now. And closer to home, the past that is yesterday is definitely past, gone, but at the same time yesterday is not past. Past choices we once made in optimistic mode are sometimes inextricably, chokingly alive in present circumstances (just ask the people who bought Intel [INTL] back in early February, or the lemmings who jumped over the cliff into Facebook [FB] just a few months ago in late July!
But why restrict ourselves to overtly personal concerns? Why not generalize?
It does not take a genius to appreciate that a great deal of the current messiness in the world and in America did not just suddenly come about today – of course not. Take the housing debacle, as just one example. We probably all have our own notions about why that is what it is – my own is that the origin of that present lies certainly in part in the ‘easy money’ promoted by an irresponsible fed chair back in the nineties. And that past is definitely, unhappily, very much present right now.
Need on point out the pernicious presence today of the past that was nine-eleven?
Or how various local and global arrangements made after the end of WWII very much affect the current chaos in Europe?
Or – reverting to theological thinking – how blowback from the seduction of naïve Eve by that sneaky serpent in the glorious garden way back when is still very much with us?
Faulkner was – as they say – spot on there: the past isn’t even past!