New Year’s Revolution; or, Wot No Retrospective?

Kilroy

When we are young we busy ourselves in forming schemes for succeeding time, and miss the gratifications that are before us; when we are old we amuse the languour of age with the recollection of youthful pleasures or performances; so that our life, of which no part is filled with the business of the present time, resembles our dreams after dinner, when the events of the morning are mingled with the designs of the evening.

Samuel Johnson (Hat tip: Henry Oliver)

Johnson – with Oliver Burkeman and others – would have us Live In the Now.

We do well to remember that the now is and will always be the only place we live. Carpe Wossname! Do it Now!

The Long Now and the Not Yet

And yet… C.S. Lewis reminds us that anticipation and memory are part of the fullness of being:

‘Is the begetting of young not a pleasure among the hrossa?’

‘A very great one, Hmān. This is what we call love.’

‘If a thing is a pleasure, a hmān wants it again. He might want the pleasure more often than the number of young that could be fed.’

It took Hyoi a long time to get the point.

‘You mean,’ he said slowly, ‘that he might do it not only in one or two years of his life but again?’

‘Yes.’

‘But why? Would he want his dinner all day or want to sleep after he had slept? I do not understand.’

‘But a dinner comes every day. This love, you say, comes only once while the hross lives?’

‘But it takes his whole life. When he is young he has to look for his mate; and then he has to court her; then he begets young; then he rears them; then he remembers all this, and boils it inside him and makes it into poems and wisdom.’

‘But the pleasure he must be content only to remember?’

‘That is like saying “My food I must be content only to eat.”’

‘I do not understand.’

‘A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmān, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The séroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then—that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?’

C.S. Lewis – Out of the Silent Planet

Happy New Year: may we live it well in anticipation, moment and memory. These are the Now.

1 thought on “New Year’s Revolution; or, Wot No Retrospective?”

  1. Stu,

    It’s nice to see that you’re reading CS Lewis. To add, I would say that all we are (and who we are changes from moment to moment) is memory, attention, and prediction. I am of the “constructionist” camp, not the “essentialist” here. We (rather, a body, but not just a body, because we do this alone, but also in society) create the world, and its reality, through perception both of external, and internal stimuli – the mind matches this to previous concepts, names them, and there you are! The real. For a moment. Then comes another real. And another.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...