The True Poet says, “The present is always the present moment of the past. We are the past. Art links past, present and future.”
So far, so good. But when he goes on, “Cut off from the past there is only habit”, it’s important to grasp the connection.
Cut off from the past there is only the day to day continuum – no comparisons therefore no ideas, and no foresight. For what is it we really compare when we look at the past? How the world could be different, more wonderful; where we went wrong; how people see things.
Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, tells some of the stories of societies who thrived, flourished, then died through habit. The most horribly fascinating story was that of the Greenland Vikings, Norwegians who colonized Greenland between AD984 and sometime in the 1400s. They built churches and a cathedral, wrote in Latin and Old Norse, wielded iron tools, herded farm animals, followed the latest European fashions in clothes – and finally vanished. There were 5,000 of them and they lasted almost 500 years – which is longer than the English speaking society of North America has so far survived.
They were contemptuous of the native Inuit – who were adapted to the environment and did survive – and learnt nothing from them. The Vikings even had a taboo against eating fish. They were culturally hampered in making the drastic changes that would have helped them to preserve their habitat.
They preferred death to change. There is a connection between culture – the way we see the world – and climate change. Let us not die from habit.