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Old 07-31-2009, 01:23 AM #1
mynameisjonathon
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Why bother with the past?

Faded pictures and veiled faces

Humans have the peculiar situation of perceiving time linearly, but with the ability to remember events that they cannot revisit. We can often be consumed by past events that inspired intense feelings, from insanity to elation, losing our focus in the present and moving it into another realm. The ability for humans to immerse themselves in past situations while still living in the present provokes a single question. How much utility is gained from pondering what is already deceased and what do we lose in the present by doing so? I can’t speak for everyone but memories can come bubbling up through the subtlest hints and consume my consciousness. My entire body will be launched into a mixed state consisting of a longing to return to a time that has already a happened but hopelessness at knowing this cannot happen. Perhaps I will remember a particularly exciting movie premier, the simplicity of living as a child, or the first time I finished an enjoyable book. Seeing the movie or finishing the book again does not inspire the same delight that it did the first time. Hardly anything arouses the body to the same magnitude of sensation as it does the first time. The feeling is tantamount to groping around in a dark empty room thinking that with each meaningless grasp you will retrieve something solid. Why as humans are we allowed to reconstruct these no longer existing moments? Sometimes it feels as if my past erodes away some of my future as I am stuck being adjacent to how I once felt, but never actually reaching the pinnacle of that foregone moment. The vitality of it is lost. Why bother remembering?
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:34 AM #2
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Baby cheetahs are almost entirely helpless without their parents. When they come of age, the parents teach them how to hunt just as they will then teach their offspring. In essence, remembering allows for us to not have to constantly keep relearning the same things over and over again.

This has recently lead to the development of writing in humans (recent being 10 - 8,000 years ago). With writing, humans can then preserve information much more accurately than they could when all they had was oral history. This expediated the learning process, allowing for us to learn and retain more.

In fact, humans are fairly handicapped when it comes to primate memories. For instance, most chimpanzees have extremely accurate, photographic memories. Even a common, unspectacular chimp can correctly memorize a sequence of flashcards more quickly and more accurately than the most intelligent humans.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:38 AM #3
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Baby cheetahs are almost entirely helpless without their parents. When they come of age, the parents teach them how to hunt just as they will then teach their offspring. In essence, remembering allows for us to not have to constantly keep relearning the same things over and over again.

This has recently lead to the development of writing in humans (recent being 10 - 8,000 years ago). With writing, humans can then preserve information much more accurately than they could when all they had was oral history. This expediated the learning process, allowing for us to learn and retain more.

In fact, humans are fairly handicapped when it comes to primate memories. For instance, most chimpanzees have extremely accurate, photographic memories. Even a common, unspectacular chimp can correctly memorize a sequence of flashcards more quickly and more accurately than the most intelligent humans.
Yes I understand it has its intellectual pursuits but unless you think all emotional connections to the past have allowed us to learn in some way then I think you are missing what I am saying.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:41 AM #4
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Various reasons.

1. The pursuit of love is the ambition of finding or refilling the void that your first love left. This is why we look to the past. To remember that feeling and to compare it with how we feel now. Once we find love, if we find love, it's only a matter of time before that love is in the past. And going with the assumption that humans want to increase their happiness, this process is never over with.

2. Understanding the world is part of our existence. When an event changes our perception of the world, we look back on it to make sense as to why those events occur. We may also try to see some logic or consistency between these events are our perceived world view. Difficulty is added since these traumatic events are based on emotions that may appear irrational.

3. Although you may see the past as futile, it's something human. Humans see the past and they see the future. That's why they're humans. When you edge ever closer to death, you try to remember when you were are you happiest or when you felt alive the most.

4. From 3, looking at the past helps us predict the future.


You may be interested in the genre of Futurists.

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To the readers of our New First Unexpected.

We alone are the face of our Time. Through us the horn of time blows in the art of the word.

The past is too tight. The Academy and Pushkin are less intelligible than hieroglyphics.

Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity.

He who does not forget his first love will not recognize his last.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:46 AM #5
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Originally Posted by ISmokeIce View Post
Various reasons.

1. The pursuit of love is the ambition of finding or refilling the void that your first love left. This is why we look to the past. To remember that feeling and to compare it with how we feel now. Once we find love, if we find love, it's only a matter of time before that love is in the past. And going with the assumption that humans want to increase their happiness, this process is never over with.

2. Understanding the world is part of our existence. When an event changes our perception of the world, we look back on it to make sense as to why those events occur. We may also try to see some logic or consistency between these events are our perceived world view. Difficulty is added since these traumatic events are based on emotions that may appear irrational.

3. Although you may see the past as futile, it's something human. Humans see the past and they see the future. That's why they're humans. When you edge ever closer to death, you try to remember when you were are you happiest or when you felt alive the most.

4. From 3, looking at the past helps us predict the future.


You may be interested in the genre of Futurists.
Maybe I'm differnt but the more I try to remember and really concentrate on these situations the more they seem to slip. It is kind of like a light that gets dimmer and dimmer every time you try to turn it on and eventually no longer works. All you remember is that you liked it when the light was really bright, but have no way of returning to it. Why have memory in this sense?
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:56 AM #6
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Maybe I'm differnt but the more I try to remember and really concentrate on these situations the more they seem to slip. It is kind of like a light that gets dimmer and dimmer every time you try to turn it on and eventually no longer works. All you rembmer is that you liked it when the light was really bright, but have no way of returning to it. Why have memory in this sense?
From what Crede was getting to, part of your question is based on empirical interest. Sometimes you can't say "why" you can only accept the "how".

In terms of evolution, memory helped a lot. Memory helps keep a consistent identity. You don't have to wake up every morning and think about where you are, what you have to do in the day, etc. It helps in productivity and other (biological and sociological) advantages.

Now, its significance can be downplayed if it inhibits in your expression. Like I said, look at the futurist/futurism genre. These people got to a point in their lives that they felt more comfortable living without a shadow. They want each day to see a new sun, a new world.
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:01 AM #7
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Originally Posted by ISmokeIce View Post
From what Crede was getting to, part of your question is based on empirical interest. Sometimes you can't say "why" you can only accept the "how".

In terms of evolution, memory helped a lot. Memory helps keep a consistent identity. You don't have to wake up every morning and think about where you are, what you have to do in the day, etc. It helps in productivity and other (biological and sociological) advantages.

Now, its significance can be downplayed if it inhibits in your expression. Like I said, look at the futurist/futurism genre. These people got to a point in their lives that they felt more comfortable living without a shadow. They want each day to see a new sun, a new world.
I understand how they feel but I don't shun this feeling I actually encourage it. This is why I feel like I might be spending to much time looking into a one way mirror.

Just trying to hash this out, your saying I can't ask why I remember, but I must simply understand that memory has served as an adapation that has enabled me to live more succesfully. I might even understand how and why I remember I just can't understand why I engage in memory the way I do?
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Old 07-31-2009, 07:56 AM #8
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As far as I'm aware, the present only lasts for a single second. Then that second is in the past. I understand when OP says the delight of reading a book is only felt once, but that past expierence can inspire people to read other books on the same topic or by the same author. It's not as if memories dissappear with time, the ones that have "allowed us to learn in some way" are still remembered. Events in History dating as far back as thousands of years ago will never be forgotten. So I still don't get the original question, are you saying that History is a useless class or that people shouldn't live in the past?
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Old 07-31-2009, 10:45 AM #9
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As far as I'm aware, the present only lasts for a single second. Then that second is in the past. I understand when OP says the delight of reading a book is only felt once, but that past expierence can inspire people to read other books on the same topic or by the same author. It's not as if memories dissappear with time, the ones that have "allowed us to learn in some way" are still remembered. Events in History dating as far back as thousands of years ago will never be forgotten. So I still don't get the original question, are you saying that History is a useless class or that people shouldn't live in the past?
It really has nothing to do with history but you could use a historical event to illustrate the point I am trying to make. If all people who were alive during a historical event are dead, then the grander of the event died with them. Sure it may be written down in text books across America but the emotion that existed during something like the Emancipation proclamation cannot be captured. Therefore we may know the details of an event that happened in our past, but we will never be able to experience the sensations to the same degree again. You can talk about how the slaves were finally freed, but you can’t understand what it actually felt like.

I fully understand the merit of memory I'm just talking about one specific instance of it.
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Old 07-31-2009, 12:12 PM #10
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Your insurance should cover the pay for a weekly psychotherapist.

Unless you are one of those healthcare reformers
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Old 07-31-2009, 12:20 PM #11
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Your insurance should cover the pay for a weekly psychotherapist.

Unless you are one of those healthcare reformers
Ha its not that extreme some people are just born with a predisposition to get tangled up every once and a while.
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Old 07-31-2009, 12:36 PM #12
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Evolution is blind, so to speak. We can't assume that every aspect of the human psyche is a direct product of survival, rather, many things (such as your seemingly negative nostalgia) are probably runoff from evolutionary adaptations.

Memory and emotion could have evolved exclusively of one another but now they inevitably interact.
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Old 07-31-2009, 12:42 PM #13
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I understand how they feel but I don't shun this feeling I actually encourage it. This is why I feel like I might be spending to much time looking into a one way mirror.

Just trying to hash this out, your saying I can't ask why I remember, but I must simply understand that memory has served as an adapation that has enabled me to live more succesfully. I might even understand how and why I remember I just can't understand why I engage in memory the way I do?
When i said "why" I meant it at a personal level. Why this happens to you is dependent on different conditions and if you're introspected enough, you could get a general idea of why you do what you do. If not, you can consult a professional.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:31 PM #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mynameisjonathon View Post
Faded pictures and veiled faces

Humans have the peculiar situation of perceiving time linearly, but with the ability to remember events that they cannot revisit. We can often be consumed by past events that inspired intense feelings, from insanity to elation, losing our focus in the present and moving it into another realm. The ability for humans to immerse themselves in past situations while still living in the present provokes a single question. How much utility is gained from pondering what is already deceased and what do we lose in the present by doing so?...
IMHO, the utility that is gained is in the form of inspiration and protection. Inspiration to recreate or exceed our past successes and protection from repeating past failures and/or dangers.

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...I can’t speak for everyone but memories can come bubbling up through the subtlest hints and consume my consciousness. My entire body will be launched into a mixed state consisting of a longing to return to a time that has already a happened but hopelessness at knowing this cannot happen. Perhaps I will remember a particularly exciting movie premier, the simplicity of living as a child, or the first time I finished an enjoyable book. Seeing the movie or finishing the book again does not inspire the same delight that it did the first time. Hardly anything arouses the body to the same magnitude of sensation as it does the first time. The feeling is tantamount to groping around in a dark empty room thinking that with each meaningless grasp you will retrieve something solid. ...
While re-reading a particular book might not inspire the same feelings you had the 1st time you read it, isn't it possible another book might even inspire greater feelings? Without the feelings you remember from reading the one book, you might not ever pick up another possibly better book.

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...Why as humans are we allowed to reconstruct these no longer existing moments? Sometimes it feels as if my past erodes away some of my future as I am stuck being adjacent to how I once felt, but never actually reaching the pinnacle of that foregone moment. The vitality of it is lost. Why bother remembering?
The original vitality may be lost, but the memory is far from pointless. The other side of the coin are memories/feelings we want to avoid. Without any memory of the pain associated with a burnt finger we would not be so careful playing with fire (both literally and figuratively).
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:50 PM #15
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IMHO, the utility that is gained is in the form of inspiration and protection. Inspiration to recreate or exceed our past successes and protection from repeating past failures and/or dangers.

While re-reading a particular book might not inspire the same feelings you had the 1st time you read it, isn't it possible another book might even inspire greater feelings? Without the feelings you remember from reading the one book, you might not ever pick up another possibly better book.

The original vitality may be lost, but the memory is far from pointless. The other side of the coin are memories/feelings we want to avoid. Without any memory of the pain associated with a burnt finger we would not be so careful playing with fire (both literally and figuratively).
All points considered I agree.

On the other hand though the memory of pain is usually not enough to deter another adventerous decision think about how easy it is to forget physical pain, but how much harder it is to subdue emotional pain.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:51 PM #16
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Originally Posted by Flying_Dutchman View Post
Evolution is blind, so to speak. We can't assume that every aspect of the human psyche is a direct product of survival, rather, many things (such as your seemingly negative nostalgia) are probably runoff from evolutionary adaptations.

Memory and emotion could have evolved exclusively of one another but now they inevitably interact.
An interesting idea.
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:53 PM #17
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When i said "why" I meant it at a personal level. Why this happens to you is dependent on different conditions and if you're introspected enough, you could get a general idea of why you do what you do. If not, you can consult a professional.
Exactly what I thought you were trying to say just making sure. Is it possible to assume some people just have a greater attachment to their past experiences than others?
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Old 07-31-2009, 01:55 PM #18
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I'm trying to understand. Are you asking why the past is important or are you wondering why some people get stuck in the past (as in becoming obsessed)?

Memories that we value become meaningful because they either taught us something (hopefully a growing event and not a repeat offender ), made us enjoy the moment or something close to that. Whether good or bad, necessary or not, they are a summation of who we are as a being.
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:03 PM #19
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:05 PM #20
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I'm trying to understand. Are you asking why the past is important or are you wondering why some people get stuck in the past (as in becoming obsessed)?

Memories that we value become meaningful because they either taught us something (hopefully a growing event and not a repeat offender ), made us enjoy the moment or something close to that. Whether good or bad, necessary or not, they are a summation of who we are as a being.
Why people can become stuck in the past.
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:41 PM #21
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Why people can become stuck in the past.
they are scared of the future and what it holds. or they love their past so much, they want to hang on to it...or their future doesnt seem bright, so they hold on to what they used to have to make it feel like everythings better and alright.

just some ideas as to why some people would be stuck in their pasts
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