"Consider that strange reality which we call time. We find it impossible to think of time as a thing; it is a non-thing, a no-thing. Perhaps because they could not thingify time, many philosophers were led to conclude that time was not real, that it belonged to the world of appearance rather than reality. That may well be; but if time is not ultimately real, nevertheless it is within this unreality that we humans are born, live out our days on earth, and die. For us mortals time is a sovereign, perhaps the sovereign, reality. But what is real in time, we say, is the present. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come; today is here, and to be here is to be present. Yesterday, which is no longer, and tomorrow, which is not yet, belong to the negative realm of nonbeing. But consider today, which we say is present and therefore real. Half of it is already gone, and is therefore no longer; half of it has not yet arrived. This present reality is thus made up of negatives. Suppose we shorten the length of time to this present hour. Here too, part of this hour is no longer, part is not yet. No matter how far we go in shortening the interval we find always a finite duration in which past-present-future are joined together. Time, so sovereignly real for us mortals, is thus compounded of Nonbeing.
More significant even than this divisibility of time is the fact that the present has its identity only through past and future. The present cannot be experienced except as the juncture between past and future. Today is today only because it separates-and joins-yesterday and tomorrow. We never experience the present as a solid self-contained reality; it opens backward on the past and forward on the future. What we experience is not the separate tenses of time, but the three together: past-PRESENT-future. The past, to repeat, is no longer, the future not yet. But without the nonbeing of the past and future, time would not be real. We mortals exist between the immense stretch of the past that is no more and of the future that is not yet. Creatures of time, we are creatures of non-Being. The language may sound rather high-flown, but it merely reports the more pervasive and ordinary reality of life as we toil in that flickering region between past and future. Struggling today to connect yesterday with tomorrow, our lives are a continual traffic with nonbeing. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, said Shakespeare. Probably. But certainly, and in a very literal sense, nonbeing is the stuff of which our lives are woven." pg. 87,88 William Barrett
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