Pascal on Living in the Present

Blaise Pascal was a Christian philosopher, scientist, and mathematician that lived in the 1600’s. He had a sharp mind and wrote some helpful stuff. One of his famous works is titled Pensees, which is french for “thoughts.” The book is a compilation of meditations on various topics. The following is a quote from Pensees on living in the present. Pascal’s thoughts here are insightful and challenging.

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of time that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away. We try to give it the support of the future, and think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching. Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” [1]


[1] Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 13.

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2 comments

  1. That’s good to be reminded of Kory. We can learn from the past, and we can make reasonable plans for the future. But we can only operate in the present – and it’s precious. What commonly occurs is that we think of the past as though it’s better than right now, though right now will soon be part of the past as well. And usually, when we’re thinking of the future, it’s involves our worries and anxieties about what MAY happen, but probably WON’T. Either direction is distorted and robs us of all we truly have – now. Thanks.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. That’s a tight rope walk that you are talking about there, but one that needs to be navigated or we’re gonna miss out. Thanks for the thoughts.

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