Let’s add this “fourth take” to my Three Takes on Time, starting with a William Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” (Requiem for a Nun, 1951).
Pushing off of the linear model, our conventional way of looking at time – with the past as a thread disappearing into some distant space that no longer exists – is actually counterintuitive. Doesn’t it make more sense to see the past as something very much still with us, but at a depth, providing the real-time substructure of the present, just as the rings of a tree do not disappear as years go by but rather continue to provide the real-time substructure of the tree? Indeed, the rings are the tree! In the same way, the cultural “past” is not gone, but is right here, at a depth, providing in real time all the folds and substructure without which the cultural present would collapse as a paper-thin surface with nothing underneath. Doesn’t this make more sense?