December 24, 2010
Notes on Screwtape: Past, Present, and Future
From the fifteenth letter:
Our business is to get them away from the Eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the Past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time -- for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays . . . . Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.
They are different in tone and meaning, but I remembered Eliot's lines about time past and time future pointing to one end -- time present. Buon Natale, MOJ friends!
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"Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it [the future] we make them think of unrealities."
One's perception of the past can be equally unreal. Thus, as Lewis Carrol wrote, "Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day."
Posted by: antonio manetti | Dec 24, 2010 12:16:28 PM