25 February 2008

On Being

This blog is largely inspired by the same thoughts that spurred the previous entry. The past is an interesting thing. We think of it as a concrete thing, but what is tangible about the past? Sure, we have preserved monuments that haven't changed since the past, buy they are still very much in the present. Indeed, the meanings that we attribute to them are modern ones, for we can exist only in the space and time we live in and the meanings we conceive are products of now. More simply, we have the benefit of hindsight.

But hindsight is only relevant so far as our conception of the past is relevant. Our common idea of the past has become widespread and is assumed logical and "true." One event happens and leads to another and so on and so on bringing us to where we are in the modern day. I need only mention certain cultures with cyclical views of the past to complicate this hegemony. We can find multitudes of human understanding of the past. But nevertheless we, as your every day US citizen, conceive the past as linear and rationalize a lot on this assumption.

But I'd like to step outside the realm of humanity for second. I'll stretch post-modernity to its very limits. If indeed our past and the past of many other cultures are equally valid, then so to are the pasts of non-human creatures. Some might find this ridiculous. Can a dog be truly conscious of a past? I do not know. But if we can assume, for a moment, that human consciousness is one of many consciousnesses then we can take an example from the animal kingdom at large. We cannot get into their heads, true, but ideas of imprinting and adaptation seem to suggest a recognition of past conditions in relation to current ones. Even instinct may be some genetically owned conception or record of the past.

Some animals may have very short memories. What of the past for them? Radically different.

The point I want to make is that the past as we know it is an artifact. This has much to bear on my being. I have memories of my past, but they ways in which I formulate them and the ones I choose as pivotal are informed by who I am today. My memory is less representative of my past and more of my present.

Is there a true me then? Post modernists are often criticized for rejecting all truth, nihilism, oh my! This is not the case. There is a true me, it changes from day to day and reborn in every minute. I am at the whims of the present. I have been oft accused by a good friend and former girlfriend that I am not the way I used to be. That somehow I was veering from my true self. This also is not the case. At this point in my life I dedicated much time to figuring out who I am. I'm fairly confident in it and I can say that how I act is who I am. To create some idea of me may largely prove to be accurate, but when I act differently I am not less myself. I am always myself.

The past exists. But it should not be assumed as true or somehow verifiable. Any recollection of it is an artifact. The past is very real to me, but only as a creation of myself in the present. Tomorrow I will be different and so will my past.

As for the future: I'm still up in the air about that.

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