by David Eide .

I did a survey of some political/current news blogs. Some of them are useful. Many of them are pure obnoxious crap that some public laps up like a drunken dog. It got me thinking about past, present, and future. How important it is to park the spirit in these realms at different periods of development. And what is the present but what is in front of us in terms of information and objects? It is that and little else. They say a terrorist was killed in Iraq and here is his picture. It happened in the present. I see it, I'm supposed to process it and go on to the next picture or story. Many powerful decisions are being made on a daily basis. Crimes are committed. Winners and losers are determined. It's all rather too much for the modern brain and it digs into its deep substratum to come up with answers, usually of a gross, vulgar mythical type that must have formed 100,000 years ago or so. Objectifying and placement of events is most crucial then.

Behind the present is a huge, complex, enriching past of all good, bad, and ugly. Many presents succeeding each other with certain breaking points that can be initiated by an event or over a period of time. In the sympathetic days of looking at the past one finally sees other human beings, as real as your neighbor, some of them far more transparent. Persons, events, objects, attitudes, structures of power and daily living, etc. All persons sleep, dream, awake, eliminate, eat, procreate, recreate, work, die. There is no escape to these things. The fact a few persons imagine, create, think either gets them honored or killed, depending on the rest of the tribe they inhabit with.

This vast ocean of resource in the past is even more significant now, now that it appears we've wrenched free of the past in obvious and meaningful ways. We still sleep, awake, eliminate, eat and the rest of it but it is in a very different environment than in the past, with different expectations and the rest of it.

The more this vast ocean flows in the self without drowning the self, the better off is a free, liberal democratic culture.

Great dangers lurk. Hatred for the present can send a mind rushing into the past looking for the heroes that will permit him to live in the present. That shouldn't happen unless the past permits it and it won't unless the person goes through a rigorous trial of sorts. In fact, hatred for the present is nothing less than hatred of life. It is reconciling ones hatred for the present with the good energies of life that makes a difference.

Every moment, of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, of every decade, of every half century, of every century, of every half millennium, of every millennium to the present time. The passage of the sun. The appearance of the moon. Beliefs. Wars. Governments. Nature. And on and on. Raging rivers and wonderful bridges over them. Battlefields.

Up to this very present time which has the sun out, the sky blue, the trees still, the birds darting or lazily drifting, lunch being prepared, the bowels and bladder empty, the screen burning bright, books open, light on, coffee cup on pile of books, cars rolling down highway, planes flying overhead, a scratch, suntan lotion still wet, clock at 1:06 pm, Bush president, Iraq still at war, news and conflict everywhere. Hatred an aggressor, love in retreat.

And every present will be a variation on that theme. 1,000 years from now? 100,000 years from now? A million years from now? The future is the third component because we know, now, as a fact, as something part of the scientific laws that time is, in fact, a reality and that time for the purposes of being human moves in one direction and one can infer that if 5,000 years have passed then surely 10,000 years will pass. And if 10,000 years pass, then surely a million years will pass. And if that is the case what are we but a bead of sweat in this tsunami of time lifting up and out for a moment and then carried away into the future? And if this is the case what can we do? What allows us then to be that which we are instructed to be? That is, honest, caring, creative, knowing, responsible human beings.

But now the next second and minute arrives and what have we done but registered a feeble protest against something we've experienced on more than one occasion?

The past tells us what has been done. The past is both an instructor and a goad to get beyond the past. We don't want its heavy burden but realize that as we shuck off the past we will get shucked off in turn. So our responsibility is to try and do everything we are capable of doing in order to fulfill the potential we see or have seen in life; past, present, or future. And to garner as much resource as we can. We use familiar tactics. One of those is deferral of gratification. Another is the tempering of our desires. A third is a kind of "learned ignorance" so the world doesn't come rushing in and destroy us.

Spent part of the evening thinking over the decades I've known. These are the things that strike me:

  1. America as the new world power post WWII, the subsequent "cold war," on up through Vietnam, nuclear treaties, finally Gorbachav and then out, out and beyond anything she has known as a nation.
  2. Space and the cosmology of that; the tactile feel of space as tangible and so on. Measurable in a way.
  3. New technologies: TV, jet plane, computer, new medicines, microwave, biotech, etc.
  4. New social relations with the inclusion of women and minorities, a pretty healthy thing for a culture expanding and needing all the productivity it can get. Ennobling considering the past.
  5. Steel and glass cities accommodating larger and larger populations.
  6. Terrorist threat, obviously new and upon us rather than history --- not sure how that will play itself out
  7. Politics and economy through the decades, ups and downs, shifts from one spectrum to another.
  8. Globalization--certainly--rather than fighting each other, trading with each other.

And there are deep questions about all of this of course. What about democracy? What about environmental destruction? What happens when even the most intelligent and conscientious types are simply overwhelmed by a world outside of understanding? Isn't that akin to the beginning of beginnings?

Our own experience through this time means nothing and everything. Time is the big Wipeout.

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A lot of retrospective, a lot of history of late. History is something all good men and women must have a relation with. We are the men and women of history; in it we play different roles and we play among different effects, different vanities, different types of life and death. History is not a lovely thing. And we wake just in time to notice that history is blowing through us, at this moment, at the speed of light or, at least, at the speed of rotation of the earth around the sun and so please pay attention. In the beginning we practice on ourselves as we view our own passage in time. We see ourselves in a different phase of development, doing different, strange things we can hardly recognize. But we are connected to it, yet, and so reflect on the development from that historic point to the present. And what shaped us, what went through is. Well, assassinations, Vietnam, civil rights, moon adventure all went through us as a young guy; not the gold rush, Mexican War, election of 1860 and Civil War. And it is determining and we can't get out it except by wild leaps of imagination. So we leap but even then we feel deflated by it all.

And we forget that the Vietnam War was not a soft abstraction blowing through our minds but a war that killed many people, blew them up, shattered their bodies, took wives from husbands, children from parents, friends from friends, sons from parents. It was a singular grief hovering above the conflict like giant drops of rain entangled in the hot, steamy jungle leaves. It smelled of rot from one end to another. Yet, we can abstract it and study it as the actions of men, the decisions of men, of extraordinary events that never get reported and so on. It passes through, makes a mark, is recorded, remembered, drifts back down into a niche of history and then is gone, gone, forever gone.

I read an account of the Battle of Hastings. Here again, we cannot relate emotionally to men preparing for battle. We finally realize that they prepared for death long before the battle. And yet, the poets and accounts always mention some were brave and some were cowards. Some flinched and cried and hoped to slink out of the battle as soon as it was on while others plunged full bore into the lines waiting for them.

And when we read that men slash each other like murderers what is the sense we have that this is not murder? Odd.

We are no better. In fact, a part of me believes we've entered that decadent phase of a culture where the servants do all the fighting and heavy lifting while the inheritors of the Empire play, fuck, tell awful jokes, get high, and care not a whit what happens in the world.

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But here is a question: Why should a person be punished for knowing what happened in the past? Or who brings the past into himself for his own building requirements? Or, uses the past to get a perspective on a present that doesn't know itself very well and is filled with piss and vinegar it mistakes for "truth"? Why should that be a punishment?

I did not think the "past was dead," That's what I grew up understanding, that is the popular image of it. But I understand fairly quickly that, 1- the past had to be rescued 2- there was not enough real resource in the present to do anything but loop around in a vicious cycle that depended not on free people but very controlled and manipulated people.

The past became a very extraordinary refuge from the present; a meaningful one and I happily lived in it for as long as I could. Ultimately you are tossed out of any easy paradise and made to face all you hated in the present. It's healthy to do because the past often contains its own spirits who will use the innocent for its own agenda. It's better simply to find that which helps the sense of building and leave everything else to its own devices. And history is still written and collected. It was purely a means to deepen the sense of meaning and creativity. To regain the respect for life that is lost in the stupidities and vacuum the present can often appear to be.

History certainly moves through the present. Not much will remain. I don't care at this point. I think technology will be a central thing. Democracy will be a central thing. The modern nation-state will be a central thing. Globalization will be a central thing. Baseball, football, movies, rock concerts will be forms without meaningful content but will identify something in our time to the future. Of course, the future will be depicted. You want to find out about the Vietnam War, just watch it as it was recorded. You want to see what a nuclear weapon could do? Just watch and see. Want to know about the rise and fall of the United States? Here's a two hour summation on tape. Ah, and what about the people who built this fabulous thing we now study, class? Well, they operated on the principle of freedom and yet were entangled at every step by their own nature or the unfreedom of others. The wealthier they became the more delusional they became which meant, in the long run, they really didn't believe their life on earth was real and had no use for the future. Their exhaustion and collapse was predictable at a certain stage and lonely prophet types try to warn them but the warnings went unheeded. They exhausted their dreams and before long no generation could afford to dream since everything that counted, counted in the single Moment they lived in.

It took several generations for this to kick in but it did and they perished as people; as people animating the fascinations of history that is. In certain forms they still existed and used the buildings and infrastructure the remained from more vital days.

A certain percentage of the people saw this tragedy unfold and tried to do something about it, even scheming to ensure that the responsibilities of power kept in their hands. Unfortunately they forgot that no democracy could be run without the full consent and participation of the people. If the people went bad, power went bad. The badness became a value and was imposed on new innocent generations.

Who knows how it will be depicted? At least we of the present know that the quality of the citizens is everything. We control only one citizen; therefore, that explains a few things.

The time is too rich and complex to be pessimistic. Pessimism is a form of emotion; perhaps a warning to watch out for a few things but never the done deal. A writer writes in the pessimistic mode simply to awaken a kind of archetype that needs to be awaken if it merely sleeps under the pressure of stupid optimism.

It is the delicate balance between the barbaric urge to vanquish the past and neuter it so that "we may be our own greatness," and the stuffed up culture that is so overladen with the past that it can't do anything new, unique, startling, in its own setting.

That is the balance the American writer seeks out.

However, we are not the innocent any longer. We are in the tragic phase of our development since we cannot go backwards. We either get better, keep growing and developing or die off in a nasty future up ahead. Therefore, a kind of responsibility kicks in that wasn't there in the past.


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