Hearing about a school reunion prompted the following –
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.”
From TS Eliot’s Burnt Norton – first of the Four Quartets
The only time we can be sure of is the present – the ‘now’. Times past and times present will have some relevance to time future. Are the decisions we make now always made with thoughts to the future? How much do we bear the future in mind when we act now?
Our past experiences will have some bearing on our thoughts and plans for the future. Looking back through diaries of our ancestors are we influenced by their thoughts? Do the words of any writer, of fiction or non-fiction influence their readers? Surely the answer is yes. We can’t help but take in the thoughts and ideas of others – whether they are real or fictional characters. We can learn from characters in fiction just as we can learn from people we know, people we observe, those we hear on the radio, see online or on TV.
What did Eliot mean when he said ‘All time is unredeemable’? Once time has passed we can’t rewind it and live it again differently, but we can learn from it and, if presented by a similar situation in the future we may react differently. Is all time eternally present? Is the future contained in time past? What has happened in the past must have some bearing on future happenings – our individual futures depend on what we do and think now and what experiences, relationships and learning have shaped us as we are now and what decisions we will make in the future.
We can’t turn back the clock and change decisions made in the past; we can’t see into a crystal ball and know what we will do in future years. As we grow older time speeds up and there are moments when we would dearly love to slow down the march of time.
It seems almost irresponsible to waste time, bearing in mind we have a limited number of years left.
We should live each day to the full.