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I am tired of people telling me to focus only on the present

In the current context of uncertainty and anxiety, every time I mention the future, I find the same answer: "We should only think about the present because the present is the only thing that exists." Sometimes the phrase ends with "the only thing we have." Honestly, I'm already tired of that answer for philosophical and ethical reasons. 

First, whoever affirms that the "present is the only thing we have" shows little or no reflection on the endless and simultaneously essential problem of time. Obviously, it is not necessary to be a philosopher to express an opinion and each person has the right to express what they want to say. But be that as it may, the present is not the only thing we have.

This superficially short column is not the place to talk about what time is or is not. And this is not the time do it. But I will say the following: when "time" is reduced merely to chronological or mechanical time, the multidimensionality of time has been lost from our experience and, as a consequence, the temporality of the human being is neglected or forgotten. 

In this context, the impermanent is understood as permanent, the fleeting as lasting, and the perishable as immutable. It is wrongly assumed that neither the future nor the past exists. But the only thing they say exists (namely, the present) is precisely the only thing that doesn’t exist, since the present is the future of the past and the past of the future.

Second, leaving all philosophy aside, there is an ethical question. With immense frequency, those who ask me to think only about the present use this approach to detach themselves from their responsibilities, both current, past, and future.

As the Spanish philosopher Daniel Innerarity said, whoever uses the present to escape the past turns the future into a garbage dump. And that is exactly what happens: we have turned the future into a garbage dump to the point that we live in the ruins of the future. The present has been transformed, by our neglect, into the ruins of the future.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remarked that whoever is not thinking about his "grandchildren" (that is, those generations that we will probably not see) "is not thinking at all." And, to quote another Spaniard, Enrique Santin, “You remember the past. You live the present. You think the future”.

Therefore, the invitation to "focus on the present" (in any of its many variations) is, ultimately, an unbearable invitation to stop thinking and to fall into a fatalism that gives us the illusion of being "free" from all our responsibility to change the present and to build a new and different future.

What then is the alternative? To understand that the future is not chronological time after the present. The future is a state of consciousness: the unfolding of consciousness towards itself, that is, towards opportunities not yet explored. Therefore, the future (and time) is the opening towards the Other.


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