Monday, January 26, 2009

Time and the self

Any true self is not only the result of a vital relation with a community but is also a development in time, and if there is no past there can be no self.

Robert Penn Warren


This seems to me an intractable problem. I alluded to it the other day, in my post about the christ-haunted Cormac McCarthy. We understand the past only in the context of the present; but, conversely, because our present is so wholly shaped by the past, if we are not careful we can become prisoners of our own history. This is what happens in places like Northern Ireland or Turkey, where people find it impossible to relinquish the memories and pain and arguments of the past. Nietzsche characterises this as ressentiment, and identifies it as the biggest blockage to our development as a human family.

So, while I agree entirely with Warren, I see dangers in his words, because men tend to fundamentalism, and fundamentalism tends to violence.

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