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Will we ever learn?

Approx. reading time: 5 minutes

Ever wondered why you as individual or we (mankind) seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over again? I like to share some thoughts about that in this article …

Evolution of Time (Past, Present and Future):

“Once we exist in a reality of time – based on Past, Present and Future – we have the phenomenon of Evolution. All of us have the universal experience what is called the “Dynamic Tension” that exists between the Past and the Future as experienced in the moment (Present).

Jeffrey Wolf Green

I am pretty sure you have experienced the following: When you listen to a piece of music you really love, it often feels like it’s finished to soon, you can’t get enough of it, right? And when you really dislike a song (or sound) you wish it would just finish rather sooner then later, it could even trigger feelings of annoyance, anger and perhaps even confusion and fear in the most extreme cases (sonic torture), ain’t it so?

Most of us experience time very much so as something subjective, not only in the experience of the duration of time itself, but also on an emotional level. Over time some memories fade (and thus trigger a reduced emotional experience), while deeply embedded traumas can last a life-time and trigger – or are triggered by – strong emotions, often negative (sorrow, doubt, fear, et cetera). It is important to keep the subjectivity of the experience of time in mind because it also influences how we interpret, experience and react during the phases of the “Evolution of Time” (Past, Present & Future).

The Present (Now)

The experience of the duration of time (“real time”) – as mentioned in the music examples above – takes place in the Present, in “the now”. Our “emotional state” plays an important role in how our mind interprets what our senses register. When we are very “mindful” this is the only moment in the “Evolution of Time” we truly experience time, logically as well as emotionally.

The Future

The Future is the most difficult for us human beings to grasp. Since the future has not been written, can’t be “seen” or predicted (by most), the Future is rather “abstract”. One simply can’t be certain what is going to happen. Most people feel insecure when they think about the unknown, some even feel scared. In the past people created “methods” to deal with those insecurity and fears about of the unknown Future. Religion is a good example, the concept of an “afterlife” and a “God-like” deity that looks after us – so one does not have to worry about the future – instead “have faith” – could be an effective method to deal with those fears and insecurities for some. Another “alternative” is science, nowadays a lot of modelling is done about pretty much anything, in some ways to try to predict Future outcomes and with that reduce the uncertainty of the Future. Science in this case plays a similar “role” as a “God-like” deity.

Subconsciously I think we know and feel that these methods – religion and science – do not really change the fact that the Future is in reality nonetheless still “unwritten” and one can never really predict the outcome, simply because life, the world, the universe is too complex and there are too many processes happening simultaneously to be able to control or predict any outcome with certainty. I think we subconsciously know and feel we are “fooling” ourselves by deriving a false sense of security that way.

The Past

In contrast with the “abstract” Future, the Past is much more “concrete”. The past is actually the only part of the “Evolution of Time” that can be “drawn” along a time-line (from Present on one side, to the oldest Past event on the other) and with it placing the Present in perspective, as long as proper historical archiving and recollecting can take place. The Past (concrete, known) in that sense feels the opposite of the Future (abstract, uncertain, unknown). We tend to feel pretty “secure” because we wish to believe we know / understand the Past.

Dynamic Tension?

The “Dynamic Tension” occurs because of the “conflict” between the two opposite sides of the “Evolution of Time”. You are in “the now” (Present), with on one hand the Past (concrete, known, secure) and on the other hand the Future (abstract, unknown, insecure). Restlessness is an exemplary emotional experience in the Present when tension between Past and Future increases. It is not so hard to imagine – if we look to for “answers” in life, specially when we feel insecure or even scared – that we look at in Past, right?

There is a risk with this tendency though. Specially when people feel insecure or are afraid of the unknown Future, people tend to project the known and more “concrete” Past on the unknown “abstract” Future, trying to replace feeling of discomfort or even fear for Future with the “secure” feeling of the Past. The problem with this is that by projecting the past on the Future we tend to “work” in the Present towards “recreating” that Past in the Future.

And unfortunately not just the good “things” of the Past, but also the bad things. Sometimes because we are “convinced” we won’t make the same mistake twice and “will do it different this time” around, but often the “bad things” of the Past were simply a natural consequence of those “actions” / choices made in the past. Perhaps you know the expression: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”? Well, sadly when we project the Past on the Future it is very likely we do exactly that.

And that is one of the reasons – I think – why we people and mankind keep on making the same mistake over and over again …

I think the only way to “break free” from this “cycle” is to become aware of the “Evolution of Time” and when looking at the Past to use it merely as a reference, not as a “copy-n-paste fix” to “get rid” of feelings such as doubt, insecurity and fear about the Future. We have to learn to face our fears and accept that you can’t control the future, only influence it’s possible outcome(s) by the choices made in the Present. Try to come up with new ideas and solutions to deal with the Future, rather then recreating the Past.

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.

Aldous Huxley