We move through our present lives largely unaware of how strongly we are affected and controlled by our subconscious images of past and future. Imaginations of the future and memories of the past can affect us in the present in many ways. We can learn from past mistakes, and we can be motivated to make a better future.
Image-beliefs of past, present, and future can be manipulated by oneself, family, friends, subcultures, and societal institutions such as media, academia, government, etc. The ability to manipulate these concepts represents a power to shape individual lives.
A more honest use of the past — as recorded in history — is to protect the future from the worst mistakes of the past. That is why we should not ignore the past, but should rather include history as part of our life’s balance.
But it is crucial that we not get bogged down in the past to the point that we find ourselves blind and paralysed in the present, unable to prepare for likely futures.
We can see the imbalance caused by an over-emphasis on the past in blood feuds — such as the ones perpetuated by extremists in Palestine, Iraq, Ireland, India, African tribal lands, and across patches of human-occupied land over most of the globe. Religious and ideological fanaticism drives much over-dwelling on the past, both violent and non-violent.
An over-emphasis on the future can lead to the forgetting of past lessons, and a neglect of problems that are building in the present. The philosophy of transhumanism, for example, glosses over past difficulties and present problems with the glib assurance of a transcendent future which will overcome all of these “trivialities.” Unfortunately, neglecting present problems can lead to the rude cancellation of the transcendent future.
The future is plastic and can be moulded, but not to an infinite degree. The future is constrained by both past and present — and we need to understand how this is so.
But we also need to learn the degrees of freedom we can attain in the future, through present action and preparation. The only way to set ourselves free from our past mistakes is to understand the details of how we are constrained, and how we might remove some of these constraints. Simply wishing will not make it so.
These ideas are carefully integrated into the Dangerous Child curriculum, which for all practical purposes begins at birth — if not before. The best way for a person to find a workable balance between past, present, and future, is to find that balance early in life — like learning to surf, ski, or ride a bicycle. Becoming comfortable in a state of dynamic balance will prevent and mitigate many of the natural anxieties of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.