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[1] 1 Of our Past ur existence makes sense only when understood in terms of where we are from and where we are going. If we do not know where we are from, it remains doubtful whether we will know our way forward. This where-we-are-from element equates with our birth, both collective and individual, into the scene of life. As for its where-we-are-going-to correlate, it corresponds to growth; that is to say a journey on the scene of life. A journey implies direction not only to but also from. That is what we mean when we say our life is a duality of action from and to, a dynamics, in other words, of progression. This from-to linear progression contrasts with the on-the-spot existence in which we turn round and round on ourselves ad infinitum. In the latter mode of existence, time seems to be frozen in one moment: generations come and go, leaving things very much the way they met them, at times in an even much worse state than they met them. In such cases, even our encounter with other cultures leaves only traces, thin and fragile and outlandish, not foundations for take-off. Such encounters leave only weak traces because our core selves either do not open up to, or are incapable of, accommodating the possibilities for genuine change that these foreign cultures bring along. Could ours be a mentality that is obdurate to change, especially when such change is meant to eliminate negative influences in our lives and create room for progress? The reflections that follow, therefore, are meant to be a projection into the future, that uncharted province where our hopes and ambitions are lodged, and which also presents a mirror record of today’s failures and achievements. Whether or not the things dreamed by these reflections happen under our aegis matters little. If they are worthy of human attention they will find O [2] architects in other minds and builders in other hands. What they should strive for, above everything else, is relevance to human life; for all action is vain unless it puts a smile on the face of human existence. A projection into the future is just a way of returning to the past. Experience, that is to say life, is nourished by the dialectical tension between these two extremes. The future is shaped by the past. That is why to travel into the future we must first return to the past, the better to arm ourselves with the mental and moral strength required for the onward march. Take away the past and there is no future; for, as the saying goes, tomorrow begins today and today began yesterday. The past occupies an important – I should even say unique – place in the life of any people. If we look closely at the history of the world we will find that societies with a sense of direction, societies that know where they are going, are those that have maintained an unbroken link with their past. This link has not only been there for its own sake. It has provided mooring and bearing, lessons and precepts, so that anyone trusting to it has worked with the confidence that only good guidance procures. Let us look at the great nations of today, beginning with America. American vision will be muddled without the guiding influence of its Founding Fathers. The spirit of America, that collective mystique without which the ordinary American will not be able to define himself, has come over the years to symbolize the continent’s sense of indebtedness to its Forefathers. America is what it is today because somewhere in the past a few people laid the right foundations upon which to build today’s greatness. In laying those foundations, those builders did not think of themselves only; in fact, they did not think of themselves at all. Their project sought justification in the future, in the people to come many, many years later, and prompted them to anchor their work on transcendent foundations. The American constitution, for example, has been in existence [3] since 1789. During this time the amendments it has suffered can be counted on the tips of the fingers. That document continues to be the country’s single most fundamental text and the repository of its ideals, many, many years after the death of its authors. And precisely because these authors worked for posterity, they have become the timeless custodians...


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MARC Record
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