Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.
—Dale Turner (1917–2006) American Priest, Columnist, Epigrammist
Oh, what times! Oh, what standards.
—Cicero (106BCE–43BCE) Roman Philosopher, Orator, Politician, Lawyer
The “good old times”—all times when old are good.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
We need to distinguish between nostalgia and the reassuring memory of happy times, which serves to link the present to the past and to provide a sense of continuity. The emotional appeal of happy memories does not depend on disparagement of the The Present hallmark of the nostalgic attitude. Nostalgia appeals to the feeling that the past offered delights no longer obtainable. Nostalgic representations of the past evoke a time irretrievably lost and for that reason timeless and unchanging. Strictly speaking, nostalgia does not entail the exercise of memory at all, since the past it idealizes stands outside time, frozen in unchanging perfection. Memory too may idealize the past, but not in order to condemn the present. It draws hope and comfort from the past in order to enrich the present and to face what comes with good cheer.
—Christopher Lasch (1932–94) American Historian, Moralist, Social Critic
The next day is never so good as the day before.
—Publilius Syrus (fl.85–43 BCE) Syrian-born Roman Latin Writer
The worst time is always the present.
—Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95) French Poet, Short Story Writer
You can never plan the future by the past.
—Edmund Burke (1729–97) British Philosopher, Statesman
Look back, and smile at perils past.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
Mr. Meant-to has a friend, his name is Didn’t-Do. Have you met them? They live together in a house called Never-Win. And I am told that it is haunted by the Ghost of Might-have-Been.
—Marva Collins (b.1936) American Educator
It is not the literal past, the “facts” of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language.
—Brian Friel (1929–2015) Irish Dramatist, Short Story Writer
Everyone knows the usefulness of the useful, but n o one knows the usefulness of the useless.
—Zhuang Zhou (c.369–c.286 BCE) Chinese Taoist Philosopher
It’s easy to carry the past as a burden instead of a school. It’s easy to let it overwhelm you instead of educate you.
—Jim Rohn (1930–2009) American Entrepreneur, Author, Motivational Speaker
Nostalgia keeps dissolving the ironic narratives in which I have contained my past.
—Mason Cooley (1927–2002) American Aphorist
The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.
—Simone Weil (1909–1943) French Philosopher, Political Activist
‘Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fullness of the past,
The years that are not more.
—Matthew Arnold (1822–88) English Poet, Critic
Nothing is as new as something which as been long forgotten.
If you look back too much, you will soon be headed that way
I never look back, I look forward.
—Steffi Graf (b.1969) German Tennis Player, Philanthropist
Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
—Albert Einstein (1879–1955) German-born Physicist
A lot of people go through life like they are rowing a boat. They look at where they have been (the PAST) rather than where they are going (the FUTURE).
One’s past is what one is. It is the only way by which people should be judged.
—Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Irish Poet, Playwright
While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.
—Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) American Head of State
The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.
—Thomas L. Holdcroft
To design the future effectively, you must first let go of your past.
—Charles J. Givens (1941–98) American Self-Help Writer
Because men really respect only that which was founded of old and has developed slowly, he who wants to live on after his death must take care not only of his posterity but even more of his past.
—Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) German Philosopher, Scholar, Writer
Nostalgia: A device that removes the ruts and potholes from memory lane.
—Doug Larson (1926–2017) American Columnist
He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past.
—George Orwell (1903–50) English Novelist, Journalist
Study the past, if you would define the future.
—Confucius (551–479 BCE) Chinese Philosopher
The past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.
—John Berger (1926–2017) English Art Critic, Novelist
I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it.
—Colette (1873–1954) French Novelist, Performer