Don’t forget the present
“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!