Tuesday 17 April 2012

Loving the past

I am in love with the past but not with the past as it was when it was the present, when it was materialistic and mundane as the present almost always is except in times of calamity, but the past as it is now, a memory. This means I am a romantic, half in love with easeful death I suppose, a morbid child of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution despite my best intentions.

Carlyle said 'the past is attractive because it is drained of fear' and this is very true indeed. But another reason it is attractive is that the past being unfamiliar lacks the boring quality which life has and which people who do not fully grow up do not bring themselves to accept. More simply the young boy seeks to learn to be a man by emulating his father and mine was dreaming of the vanished glories of life in the 1930s and 1940s when things had not been better for him in material terms but when he had been young.

Churchill is supposed to have tried to say in French that when he looked back over his past he saw that was divided into two equal parts but said mon derrière  instead of mon passé. 

It is priggish and a great mistake to reject ones own generation though a sign of sensitivity and wisdom to love the past. But the past does not exist, remember. The past is smoke.

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