On the Merits and Limitations of Egotemporal Dissociation

For my transgressions and failed conquests, I blame a former self, and to the me-to-be of my future, I entrust my righteousness and greatest achievements, while here my present-self-I sits idle and without guilt or impetus, all the while becoming a former self onto whom all consequent blame is shifted. That I am not responsible for my once-upon-a-times or subsequent selves, that the onus is on the I of ‘I will’, is the sole cause of my stasis – like Zeno’s arrow, its arc split into motionless instants, I am paralysed. It is in failing to recognise the continuity and thread of the self that moment-to-moment-me makes this mistake. I am indebted to my future-tense-me, and must backdate my atonement. In doing so I will lessen the retrospective burden of my future penitent self, this being in itself a favourable act of goodwill to my me-to-be. Being is infinitely weighty with these egotemporal responsibilities, only the saint knows otherwise.

If, however, your past behaviour causes you grief, remember this: that former self for whom you’ve infinite enmity, he was doing what he was apt to do at the time, and it is by virtue of all his work, both good and bad, that you now recognise the need to change tack. Let this former self of yours be your teacher, let him cause you only so much pain as instructs. That he causes you pain is but the hallmark of progress, you have changed. While it is judicially convenient that you be held accountable for your past, it is, as even the Buddhist monk will agree, empirically questionable – you are, in a material sense, no longer him. Find consolation in the futility of dwelling, too – you can change only what is present, the past is gone, and if it were not for the faculty of memory, the past would be nought but a physical assumption. But what to do with all this nervous energy? Invest it in your present so as to redefine your future as it gradually becomes your past. Do the right thing; routinely change your mind as to what that really means, and revise your behaviour accordingly. If you are not continually in the act of transcending your former self, then you are liable to make a history which later will cause you grief.

There is little to be gained, and indeed much to be lost, by looking too far into the future, too far into the past. To live solely for a future self denies the present and thus mars the past-to-be which the future will some day represent. Do not misinterpret these dictates as betraying a philosophy which places greater value on the past and the standard of its production than on the present or the future, instead recognise the utility of the past in discussions such as this, as the only time we know for sure.

Know that amor fati is an imperative applicable to your past just as it is to your future, for fate is the personal course of time, and thus should be embraced both antero- and retroactively. Finally, know that fatalism need not be submissive or defeatist, unless your fate holds that you will submit to defeat.


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