The future is an unknown, but a somewhat predictable unknown. To look to the future we must first look back upon the past. That is where the seeds of the future were planted. I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
—Albert Einstein (1879–1955) German-born Physicist
The general thrust these days is: Oh, come on, it’s all in the past, nobody’s interested any more, it didn’t work, everyone knows what the Americans are like, but stop being naive, this is the world, there’s nothing to be done about it and anyway fuck it, who cares? But let me put it this way-the dead are still looking at us, waiting for us to acknowledge our part in their murder.
—Harold Pinter (1930–2008) British Playwright
Look back, and smile at perils past.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
The past is at least secure.
—Daniel Webster (1782–1852) American Statesman, Lawyer
The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.
—Henri Bergson (1859–1941) French Philosopher, Author
Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.
—Oprah Winfrey (b.1954) American TV Personality
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
The past always looks better than it was; it’s only pleasant because it isn’t here.
—Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936) American Author, Writer, Humorist
To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.
—Martial (40–104) Ancient Roman Latin Poet
A man’s memory may almost become the art of continually varying and misrepresenting his past, according to his interest in the present.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish Philosopher
We need to distinguish between nostalgia and the reassuring memory of happy times, which serves to link the present to the past and to provide a sense of continuity. The emotional appeal of happy memories does not depend on disparagement of the The Present hallmark of the nostalgic attitude. Nostalgia appeals to the feeling that the past offered delights no longer obtainable. Nostalgic representations of the past evoke a time irretrievably lost and for that reason timeless and unchanging. Strictly speaking, nostalgia does not entail the exercise of memory at all, since the past it idealizes stands outside time, frozen in unchanging perfection. Memory too may idealize the past, but not in order to condemn the present. It draws hope and comfort from the past in order to enrich the present and to face what comes with good cheer.
—Christopher Lasch (1932–94) American Historian, Moralist, Social Critic
To yackety-yak about the past is for me time lost. Every morning I wake up saying, ‘I’m still alive — a miracle.’ And so I keep on pushing.
—Jacques Cousteau (1910–97) French Military Leader, Explore, Ecologist, Scientist, Photographer
The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memorized glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow’s past.
—Mary Webb (1881–1927) English Novelist, Poet, Writer
The illusion that times that were are better than those that are has probably pervaded all ages.
—Horace Greeley (1811–72) American Elected Rep, Politician, Reformer, Editor
There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the Best as the past withdraws.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German Poet
The free world must not prove itself worthy of its own past.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) American Head of State, Military Leader
If the past cannot teach the present and the father cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the world has wasted a great deal of time.
—Russell Hoban (b.1925) American Children’s Books Writer, Novelist, Writer
The people who get into trouble in our company are those who carry around the anchor of the past.
—Jack Welch (b.1935) American Businessperson
Study the past, if you would define the future.
—Confucius (551–479 BCE) Chinese Philosopher
One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it. To remain in touch with the past requires a love of memory. To remain in touch with the past requires a constant imaginative effort.
—Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) French Philosopher, Psychoanalyst, Poet
The people who live in the past must yield to the people who live in the future. Otherwise the world would begin to turn the other way round.
—Arnold Bennett (1867–1931) British Novelist
Everyone knows the usefulness of the useful, but n o one knows the usefulness of the useless.
—Zhuang Zhou (369BCE–286BCE) Chinese Philosopher
The past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays, nor just for tomorrow, but in the here and now. Keep moving and forget the post-mortems. And remember, no one can get the jump on the future.
—Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) American Children’s Books Writer, Poet, Biographer, Novelist, Socialist
Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have — so spend it wisely.
To design the future effectively, you must first let go of your past.
—Charles J. Givens (1941–98) American Self-Help Writer
Mr. Meant-to has a friend, his name is Didn’t-Do. Have you met them? They live together in a house called Never-Win. And I am told that it is haunted by the Ghost of Might-have-Been.
—Marva Collins (b.1936) American Educator
The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to an idealised past.
—Robertson Davies (1913–95) Canada Journalist, Playwright, Academic, Critic, Novelist
Oh, this age! How tasteless and ill-bred it is.
—Catullus (84–54 BCE) Roman Latin Poet
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
—George Orwell (1903–50) English Novelist, Journalist
Clinging to the past is the problem. Embracing change is the answer.
—Gloria Steinem (b.1934) American Feminist, Journalist, Social Activist, Political Activist
God gave us memory that we might have roses in December.
—J. M. Barrie (1860–1937) Scottish Novelist, Dramatist, Author
Man… cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.
—Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) German Philosopher, Scholar, Writer