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Johann Georg Wille: The Philosopher of the Past (1782)

"It isn't, but was, and promises to one day be before slipping behind me again."

I most often imagine my Successes as assets, like coins stored in a bank, except I know that there's not really any bank there. I remember high points, but I ultimate must admit that I do not reside anywhere near them. They belong to my Pasts, the many and various people I've been and places I've inhabited. Each Success seems forever tied to the particular place and time in which it occurred, and though I sometimes think of them as if they were tangible possessions, I understand that they are not and never were. They exist as memories, which seem tricky characters sometimes capable of seeming real, as if they are living in this present moment rather than suspended somewhere before.

Each of my careers experienced some Successes.
I didn't really understand when I changed professions that I would be leaving those Successes behind me. While continuing to engage in that role, they still seemed an implicate part of me. Once I left, I could no longer claim those credentials. At best, I could claim to have once held them, though even that felt increasingly lame as time flowed forward. I experienced leaving behind my Successes as I supposedly progressed into fresh areas, like my ancestors abandoned their Virginia homestead to head West over the Cumberland Gap. They left forty years of Successful history behind them, not really able to squeeze their Successes into their wagons.

I some evenings fondly recall a few of my more prominent Successes, and even savor far distant feelings I still associate with them, but knowing that they occurred to and/or were achieved by somebody else, someone who wouldn't fit into my wagon heading westward, either. I can manage to be almost one person at a time, always aspiring to become a bit more than I presently seem. Those other ones, those who proved so capable and Successful, I left behind me. I am no longer those I was, them and their Successes seem interred, buried in Pasts. I am blessed to live in the present, blessed it seems as well as cursed, for my Successes couldn't travel any better than could my former selves. I am out in the woods now, far from home.

I live in the present, with one big toe pointing into my immediate future. I am still trolling for Successes, and feeling as though I'm moving ever closer to fresh ones, even knowing that however great or small it is, it won't be coming along with me. I feel increasingly convinced that Successes live for no more than a moment. We sense their presence long, long after they go absent, but they absent themselves almost immediately. Successes seem like crypto-currency, physically virtually nothing, yet they seemingly retain belief. Just as long as one can hold that sense felt when they first descended, they have presence and value. Do not, though, insist upon ever validating their physical existence, for they will have disappeared from the vault before the door's opened. Better to imagine them sitting in storage and to relish the lingering sensation of their presence than to shatter that image by even trying to open that door.

Successes lived before and promise to live in the future, but are not ever here for long. Their short lives must make them precious, for we seem perfectly willing to sacrifice almost anything to experience them. Ephemeral by nature, they seem fragile yet still sturdy enough to motivate great movement. The promise of it encouraged the greatest works of civilization. The absence of it has fueled this world's greatest despairs. I sometimes wonder if Success was ever really here or if it was never more than a dream resolving into a sensation before residing in one of the many Pasts we each had to leave behind us, hardly an asset. It isn't, but was, and promises to one day be before slipping behind me again.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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