What's on your mind?, the social networking site Facebook asks.
Another question is asked by what many say is the world's smartest website, Edge. The editors of Edge.org http://edge.org asked for responses from some of the planet's greatest thinkers to the question below:
"WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?"
Here's a brief quote by a writer, Andrian Kreye, who is a German journalist who has also lived in the United States.
"My observation had been a mere notion of the major difference between my native Europe and America, my adopted continent for a couple of decades. In Europe the present is perceived as the end point of history. In America the present is perceived as the beginning of the future."
I have been thinking about this for days, and wondering, if true, where Mexico and Latin America stand on the idea of the present, whether as end-point, like Europe, or as a starting-point, like the U.S.?
Latin America historically has taken so many cues from Europe, especially Spain, France and Italy: immigrants, legal system, literature, to name only a few. All this while living next door to the U.S. whose historical roots are in Spain's archrival Great Britain.
As a borderlands resident, I can say that a primarily oral culture, such as mine and that of my parents and grandparents, a great emphasis was placed on the past. Family stories, history, traditions revered the past, including relatives who had died but were remembered often. The past was who you were: your name, your reputation, your worth was in your family and its good name.
As far as the future, I remember from my childhood that older relatives were generally well-disposed and optimistic, but there were also the perennial "if God wills it" (si Dios quiere) "may God will it" (Ojala (Allah) que sí), sprinklings of religious hesitations (signs of the cross and fingers crossed) nearly superstitious speech that nearly always accompanied descriptions of goals and dreams. An unspoken warning "Let's not be too bold-- you don't want to step outside your class or station and upset the natural order".
Meanwhile, in my 'Americana' up-bringing, it was in the schools and mass media culture that I was provided much of the future orientation that I possess. The future was who you could be, "grab all the gusto," "be all you can be", and those are only a few TV commercials.
I get dizzy thinking of the hundreds of movies, songs, books and the mythologies of TV programs whose American can-do spirit I've digested and adopted.
I'll keep pondering what the present means for me, and where I choose to land on the continuum of past - present - future orientation, if one can choose such a thing.
I mentioned the quote to a very wise friend, who added another interpretation about the present. She asked, instead of seeing the present as an end or a start, why not think of the present as simply the moment, now, the present, without a reference to the future or the past?