Pascal's Pensées: Week 12, We Wander About In Times That Do Not Belong To Us


We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that to not belong to us, and do not think about the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight  because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away...

We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present our our means, and the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.


My goodness, I don't have really anything to add to Pascal here. He wrote this four-hundred years ago, and it may be truer now than it has ever been. In many ways, our neuroses are diseases of time. Depression, regret and guilt are diseases of the past. Worry, anxiety, and fear diseases of the future.

Emotionally, we wander about in times that do not belong to us. And because of this, we never actually live.

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