From The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year by Caitlin Matthews,
“Expectation and Remembrance
‘Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, och! I backward cast my ee,
Oh prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!’
Robert Burns, To a Mouse
It is only humans who fetter themselves with the chains of past and future; animals experience a continual present. That they do not inhabit their memories or expectations is a blessed condition for them that we cannot share. We do not know at what point early hominids evolved from this blessed condition, although many of the world’s creation myths speak about the fall from that state. Remembrance of the past and expectation of the future have proved a dangerous knowledge. The past has been used to dictate the false paradigms of history to terrible ends: the victim’s justifications for terrorism; the bully’s justifications for conquest, suppression, and genocide. The future has thrown back its shadow in no less startling ways: the utopian idealist’s programme of eugenics; the defensive group’s over-militarization. It would seem that when we call upon the past and future out of fear, we betray our animal origins again and again.
Expectation and remembrance can be balanced by the eternal now. By respecting the ancestors and the descendants equally, we can always find resourceful solutions to present difficulties, especially if we access the daring and courage within us without fear. A further evolution of human from animal origins will arrive when we can achieve the balance of remembrance and expectation with the now that is happening now… and now… and now.
Attend to the eternal present for an hour, an afternoon, or a whole day, without conscious recourse to remembrance or expectation.”