The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memorized glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow’s past.
—Mary Webb (1881–1927) English Novelist, Poet, Writer
The past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.
—John Berger (1926–2017) English Art Critic, Novelist
Man… cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.
—Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) German Philosopher, Scholar, Writer
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
The next day is never so good as the day before.
—Publilius Syrus (fl.85–43 BCE) Syrian-born Roman Latin Writer
A safe but sometimes chilly way of recalling the past is to force open a crammed drawer. If you are searching for anything in particular you don’t find it, but something falls out at the back that is often more interesting.
—J. M. Barrie (1860–1937) Scottish Novelist, Dramatist
Posterity will say as usual: “In the past things were better, the present is worse than the past”.
—Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) Russian Short-Story Writer
Clogged with yesterday’s excess, the body drags the mind down with it.
—Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) (65–8 BCE) Roman Poet
The “good old times”—all times when old are good.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
There is nothing new, but what has become antiquated.
God gave us memory that we might have roses in December.
—J. M. Barrie (1860–1937) Scottish Novelist, Dramatist
Our ignorance of history makes us libel to our own times. People have always been like this.
—Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) French Novelist, Playwright, Short Story Writer
The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good; and thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burdens of the past.
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927–2014) Colombian Novelist, Short-Story Writer
Some are so very studious of learning what was done by the ancients that they know not how to live with the moderns.
—William Penn (1644–1718) American Entrepreneur, Political leader, Philosopher
Although you should not erase your responsibility for the past, when you make the past your jailer, you destroy your future. It is such a great moment of liberation when you learn to forgive yourself, let the burden go, and walk out into a new path of promise and possibility.
—John O’Donohue (1956–2008) Irish Priest, Hegelian Philosopher
The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.
—Ivern Ball (1926–92) American Writer, Aphorist
If you look back too much, you will soon be headed that way
To be able to look back upon one’s past life with satisfaction is to live twice.
—Martial (40–104) Ancient Roman Latin Poet
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
Oh, what times! Oh, what standards.
—Cicero (106BCE–43BCE) Roman Philosopher, Orator, Politician, Lawyer
Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have—so spend it wisely.
I never look back, I look forward.
—Steffi Graf (b.1969) German Tennis Player, Philanthropist
In the maxim of the past you cannot go anywhere.
—Maxim Gorky (1868–1936) Russian Writer, Dramatist, Political Activist, 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
Look back, and smile at perils past.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, knowing that once it was all that was humanly possible.
—George Santayana (1863–1952) Spanish-American Poet, Philosopher
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
Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.
—Oprah Winfrey (b.1954) American TV Personality
It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) American Novelist
The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.
—Simone Weil (1909–1943) French Philosopher, Political Activist
The past is a bucket of ashes, so live not in your yesterdays, nor just for tomorrow, but in the here and now. Keep moving and forget the post-mortems. And remember, no one can get the jump on the future.
—Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) American Biographer, Novelist, Socialist
If you want to succeed in your life, remember this phrase: The past does not equal the future. Because you failed yesterday; or all day today; or a moment ago; or for the last six months; the last sixteen years; or the last fifty years of life, doesn’t mean anything…All that matters is: What are you going to do, right now?
—Tony Robbins (b.1960) American Self-Help Author, Entrepreneur
If you must cry over spilled milk then please try to condense it
Things without remedy, should be without regard; what is done, is done.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British 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 function of posterity is to look after itself.
—Dylan Thomas (1914–53) Welsh Poet, Author
The rewards in life go to those who are willing to give up the past
You can never plan the future by the past.
—Edmund Burke (1729–97) British Philosopher, Statesman
Vanity plays lurid tricks with our memory.
—Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) Polish-born British Novelist
The past itself, as historical change continues to accelerate, has become the most surreal of subjects—making it possible… to see a new beauty in what is vanishing.
—Susan Sontag (1933–2004) American Writer, Philosopher
We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.
—Joan Didion (1934–2021) American Essayist, Novelist, Memoirist
The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.
—Thomas L. Holdcroft
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 past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
—L. P. Hartley (1895–1972) British Writer, Critic
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
—John F. Kennedy (1917–63) American Head of State, Journalist
If the past cannot teach the present and the father cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the world has wasted a great deal of time.
—Russell Hoban (1925–2011) American Novelist, Children’s Writer
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the past together again. So let’s remember: Don’t try to saw sawdust.
—Dale Carnegie (1888–1955) American Self-Help Author
Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.
—Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) (c.43 BCE–c.18 CE) Roman Poet
The future is an unknown, but a somewhat predictable unknown. To look to the future we must first look back upon the past. That is where the seeds of the future were planted. I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
—Albert Einstein (1879–1955) German-born Physicist
The illusion that times that were are better than those that are has probably pervaded all ages.
—Horace Greeley (1811–72) American Elected Rep, Politician, Reformer, Editor