Life, says Seneca, divides into three time zones, and “of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, and the past is certain.” Not only certain but also the only division of life subject to change. George Orwell’s dystopian comedy, 1984, fits the truth of the observation to the policy of a totalitarian police state—“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” John Crowley in this issue of Lapham’s Quarterly carries the thought further, enlarges it to encompass the whole inheritance of our human history, suggesting that “the past is the new future,” continuing “to expand rather than shrink with distance its lessons not simple or singular, a big landscape of human possibility, generative and inexhaustible.”
The future is a work in progress, something made instead of something lost or bought or found. We have little else with which to make it except time-past revised and reconstituted in the present—as close at hand as the next sentence on a new page, no further away than around the corner or across the street.
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