Friday, September 5, 2008
Presentism or Can We Really Look Back?
Presentism is the tendency to judge historical figures by contemporary standards. For example to judge Sigmund Freud for patronizing women is taking his behavior out of context of the time in which he lived. We all tend to view the past through the perception our present experience.
We also use presentism when looking into the future. Predictions about the future are made in the present. Our past selves and future selves were and will be different then we are at the present. But we often forget that.
I recently traveled to the Gulf Islands and Victoria B.C. where I used to live. My present self had a hard time not viewing the memories of those two past lives through my present lens. Living on Pender Island was wonderful, healthy, enchanting, frustrating and often fascinating. I was busy in my organic market garden, with raising my young children, tending my animals, running my gallery and creating my art. My older wiser self today would feel grateful, centered, serene and tranquil there. My 30 year old self [the one who lived there for nine years] was jubilant, over worked, optimistic, and very energetic. I was working on emotional, and relationship issues that I am no longer focused on. I was a very different person.
I was also a different person when I lived in Victoria. I was passionately focused on creating my art therapy practice, getting my children through adolescence, creating art, doing art workshops and teaching. My inner personal and spiritual work was somewhat the same, but also very different than it was on Pender.
Looking back into the past and looking forward to the future somehow loses meaning when we realize that we really cannot do that. I have a hard time remembering whom that person was standing in the garden on Pender Island; I know that I no longer have her fears and dreams. I can see these places for what they mean to me now, but I cannot project or guess what they were for me then. Memories are also influenced by presentism, they are not made of the pure view or feeling in the time they happened. So, I guess living in the present is our only option. When I visit the past, I am really living my present.
Or the present is the moment, the space and the place where the past and the future converge. There is nothing else.
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