Now and then there ought to be a way to create links between the past, the present and the future

As people get older, they carry around more and more “baggage”, and I think this baggage is usually considered to somewhat like a ball and chain — it is something that limits us (because it influences our behavior more than a “clean slate” would). From this point of view, the ideal state would be to have complete information in the present, and a “secret algorithm” to make sense of it all.

But that’s not the way we’re wired. We remember stuff from the past all the time — and even if that isn’t the “living in the present” ideal, it is the way “being human” actually works. If we were androids, then what happened 5 minutes ago might not need to affect us at all, but I still like being a human (at least sometimes).

When I studied information science, I was introduced to Brenda Dervin’s ideas related to “sense-making“. I found these ideas very fascinating, but one aspect I didn’t consider then was this: A big part of being human is not only a matter of sense-making in the present, but also a matter of sense-making across time. If we eliminate the passage of time from our world, then we are actually eliminating a piece of humanity from the world — effectively, we would thereby make the world worse (for humans).

Therefore, I think maybe we should not leave the past behind us. Maybe we should acknowledge the past — without necessarily needing to “accept” it, because there are things in the past we must not accept. We must not accept things that went “wrong”; but it is perhaps good to simply acknowledge that they went that way. Most of all, making sense of our lives means incorporating a sense of time, and our place in it, into our lives — and that is something that seems to be missing these days.

If we lose sight of our place in time, then we would seem to lose touch with our own lives. We need to think more about the environment as something we create — not only for ourselves, but also for our children and also for further generations to come. If we don’t do this, then we risk losing sight of our own lives, our own significance, ultimately: our own humanity.

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