Don’t forget the present

December 2005: the Hertford Bridge at Oxford, a fitting symbol of the past meeting the future.

December 2005: the Hertford Bridge at Oxford, a fitting symbol of the past meeting the future.

“Remember the past, and prepare for the future, but don’t forget:  the present is where you live.” — Ashleigh Brilliant

The Hertford Bridge pictured above is part of Hertford College, of the University of Oxford in England.  It connects the Old and New Quadrangles of that college, with administrative offices in the older building and student accommodations in the newer one.  Normally we wouldn’t describe buildings that were constructed over 100 years ago as “new” but when some of the older ones go back to medieval times, new is a relative term.

If the college itself represents the past, its current students must certainly represent the future.  At Oxford the two are even more obviously linked than at most universities, so the bridge is an apt symbol.  It would be very easy for people affiliated with Oxford or similar places of learning to become over-focused on either the past or the future, but what is happening in the present remains the most crucial consideration for both students and faculty.

Most of us have strong ties to the past, whether they are linked to relatives, vocational experiences or personal memories.  And even for those of us who are getting on in years, it’s tempting to spend much time planning for the future.  Both past and future are worthy of our regard, but it’s all too easy to let the present slip away without much notice.  For me, it happens in various ways; time “frittered away” on unimportant distractions I didn’t intend to prioritize; energy wasted on fretting about unforeseen glitches in my plans; relationships marred, temporarily or permanently, when I allow a bad mood to affect my interactions.

I’m not sure of the origin of the phrase “redeem the time,” but it seems more desirable a term than other verbs we use to describe what we do with time: spend it, pass it, or worst of all, kill it.  “Redeem” carries with it a sense of obligation for how we use the ultimate gift of life.  We are not all allowed the same quantity of time, but whether our years are long or short, we will probably use it best if we avoid excessive fixation on the past or future.  The present is where we live.  Let’s make the most of it!

13 Comments

  1. That is certainly a strong tie to my past. I was born in Oxford and grew up just outside.

    • Lucky you! I think that part of England is beautiful. Of course, I’ve never seen any part of it that I didn’t like. Thanks for being here!

  2. Thanks for reminding me that. As parents we enjoy reminiscing the various stages of our children’s growth and planning for their future. Yesterday as I was watching my little one (she is four) I was thinking: She too will grow up and I will no longer be able take her in my arms. Nowadays she hums (non-stop) all the songs and tunes she knows, and is carefree like a butterfly. These sweet days won’t return. This is the moment I should cherish instead of being lost in the past or worried about the future. I must focus on the present, the gift, joie de vivre.
    But wonder why we fail to enjoy or even feel guilty about doing that!

    • I wonder the same thing. Since the present is what is right in front of us, it seems as if we would be too focused on that, but for most of us it doesn’t work that way. We get busy with urgent details but we often lose sight of the best daily gifts. You are right, your daughter is at a wonderful age. I have such happy memories of the years when our children were old enough to be fun companions and yet still young enough to really enjoy life. One thing that helps me fully appreciate the present is taking photographs, since I have to literally focus on what is going on right now. Of course, later the photos can become a means to get lost in the past, so I have to limit my time spent looking at them. 🙂 I think just being aware of the passing of time can help us focus on the present as well. Since Jeff’s illness was diagnosed I am noticing so many things I love about him that I was too busy to take note of before. Thanks so much for your visits here, and your comments!

  3. i am lucky that my nephew inspires me every day to get out of that bed and seize the day! as i’ve gotten older, i’ve realized the need to rest when my body is tired, but otherwise, i am lucky to have many interests and always many projects that i enjoy doing – and there are always many more in queue. speaking of, i had best get busy with those projects!

    z

    • Isn’t it wonderful to have so many fun things to do? Your nephew’s story is very inspiring…in fact, I think that was what led me to your blog! Thank so much for being here.

  4. Sheila

    Julia, we had a “moment” at our office today that I must share. Our last patient of the day was a “special” 6 year old boy (autistic) that came to us for supports to go in his shoes. Bill asked him how many pairs of shoes he had. His reply quite matter of factly was “Oh, about a thousand!” I think we’ll start with one pair. He was definitely our grand finale… so precious.
    That’s why we do what we do! I love having you to share that with. You’re in my “present”!
    Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila! 1000 pairs of shoes? In my dreams!! To this boy it probably seems like that many. Matt has inserts to go in his shoes, too, and they have made such a difference. He used to get terrible blisters on his feet but after getting the customs shoe inserts he’s been fine. The “one size fits all” type didn’t help him. Thanks for doing what you do!

  5. Your pal Ashleigh has said it so well. “Stop and breath in the day”, I must remind myself constantly. I’m not sure why it is that humans tend to focus on the future so much. Personally, it could be my years as a Service Rep. Everything came down to planning: targets, schedules, costs. It’s hard to break that habit when you retire.

    • Yes, we seem hardwired to focus on what lies just ahead. Not a bad way to think unless it obscures today. Speaking of which, I hope you are having a wonderful vacation! Tell Alyster to kick up his heels for me and have a blast!

  6. One of my favorite quotes and lovely bridge. You should check out some of the other posts to this challenge I think you will find some likenesses.

    • Thanks, I will do that. I just love the photos at Cee’s site. She has some very talented readers! I appreciate your visit and comment.

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