“The Past is never dead. It’s not even Past”-William Faulkner
The past is often times considered to be a map of the future. The past determines where we have been as a people and where we are going. This statement can be partnered with the South African word “Sankofa” meaning “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”(http://www.sankofa.com, 2005) This belief is very significant to Faulkner’s quote for many reasons for example. During Faulkner’s life he bore witness to the many changing opinions of slavery during the civil war. He saw many people change their beliefs and others who did not, so in other words although slavery was no longer legal and considered a thing of the past. Its practices, ideas and beliefs were still alive in many people’s minds. If we can not forget, then the past can never really die.
Many of the mistakes we have made in the present as Americans and human beings can be traced back to events in the past. Some of these examples can include the current state of our environment, wars, and racial and gender discriminations. One example of history repeating its self could be the Red Scare. This was a period in history in which was so afraid of communism that many people were persecuted for simply being a member of a group or sect that was considered or thought to be of a communist nature. In many occasions there assumptions were incorrect costing many people there dignity, respect, and often time there very lives. In today’s world this can be related to the 9-ll attacks on the World Trade Centers. After this many people were beaten, persecuted or in some instances killed for simply appearing to be off Arab or Muslim decent. This is just one example of the past becoming the present. The characters changed but the basic principles did not.
Faulkner’s quote also reminded me of something my mother used to always say to me every time I was caught doing something I was not supposed to be. She used to say “There is nothing new under the sun. It never really made much sense to me as a kid but as I got older I began to understand its meaning. I realized that all of the sneaky things I thought I was getting away with she had already done as a child and she knew exactly what to look for. My present was repeating her past. Faulkner’s quote can be applied to that same principle every time we think that we are getting away with something or we think we have developed a new way to do something. Someone else already thought of it first.
Throughout history many of our cultural trends or fads have been repeated. For example clothing, many of the styles of the 40’s 60’s and 80’s has all been repeated at some point during our present time. Styles of dance such as 80’s break dancing or “pop locking” are still done today, swing dancing, line dancing, they are all forms of dance that are still performed in this present time. Viewpoints about certain lifestyles and ideas that were once thought to be over are still in existence for example the debate on abortions, and gay marriages is still as prevalent today as it was more than forty years ago. There is no new idea, only a remodeled one.
One other idea that came to mind after reading Faulkner’s quote were the religious beliefs of many different cultures. Many cultures believe that the souls of the dead do not die but are reborn into something or someone else. This term is often times called Reincarnation or Transmigration. The Egyptians believed in reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul. They thought the soul transmigrated from body to body and this was a reason why they embalmed the body in order to preserve it so that it could journey along with ka, an animating force that was believed to be counterpart of the body, which would accompany it in the next world or life. Ka might be considered equivalent to the term of soul. Even in today’s times many people still believe in that very concept. This leads us back to Faulkner’s quote. If know one’s spirit really dies than that past is truly never really dead it is simply reincarnated into something that looks and feel new but is in realty very old. This reminded of something I have heard many older people say about there younger counterparts (“They have an old soul”). I must have heard that a million times but it never quite struck me until now. No one is really new everyone is made up of people from the past, there ancestors so to speak. We are a mixture of our ancestors’ genetics, talents, ideas, and so much more. Every one of us regardless of race, culture, gender or creed are all the remnants of the people in our past.
There are so much of the past still very prevalent in our present, certain dialects, fashions, trends and even some of our nation’s most shameful mistakes are still very much so alive in this day and age. There is nothing that has not been seen or done or at least thought in the past. Even though we make think that certain inventions or technological advance we have made are new. When you think about it they truly are not. Someone whether it was 6 months ago or 60 years ago thought of the possibility and maybe even toyed with a prototype of some kind. Our entire modern existence is built on the foundation of our ancestors and there ideas and principles. Hence the past is never really dead; it is simply reborn.