observations and opinion
A student asked me to participate in an interview. I was to answer one question: “Which is more important – the next hour to come, or the year just passed?”
My probably-unhelpful answer follows.
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The question is important, because what it’s really asking you is: what is important to you?
If your whole focus of life is what you will do next, then you might think the next hour is all that matters. After all, you have a chance to shape the next hour, to do something with it that matters, to carve a path that might alter every step you take forever. In a real way, the next hour – the next minute of the next hour – isn’t just the most important thing, it’s the only thing that exists. The past is just memory, phantoms inside your mind. Only this moment is truly real.
But in another sense, the past is the only thing that is real. Everything that exists, comes from the past. You were born there, the shirt on your back was stitched there, the words you speak were crafted there, the device you record this upon was manufactured there – all in that same place, the past. You can take just a portion of the past – the last year – and examine what happened in it, what was created in it: didn’t it change you forever? Didn’t it take you to a place you had never been before? A place you’ll never be again? How can the next hour of your life, which is probably going to consist of flipping through Snapchat, be more important than that?
It can’t be, yet it must be. I think they call this a “conundrum.”
So let me ask you a question: which is more important, the person you love, or the love that you feel for them? You would probably say that the question can’t be answered, because if you didn’t have the person, you wouldn’t feel the love. And if you didn’t feel the love, the person probably wouldn’t be all that important.
So which is more important, the next hour or the past year? Neither, and both. If you aren’t alive in the next hour, then the whole past year has no place to keep on living. But without that past, your next hour won’t have much meaning. You have the canvas and you have the tubes of paint. Which are more important? Both of them are useful, but neither can be important until you put them together.