Consider this moment of your existence. In this moment, you have certain feelings. Notice that all these feelings are of two sorts: either reactive, or proactive.
On the one hand, they are responses to aspects of the past – of moments previous to this one, whether arriving from your own past experiences or from other parts of the world. For example, you feel the sound of the bird singing outside the window, and you feel a jet of glee at the beauty of his song. I. e., you feel something you have inherited, not from one of your own past moments, but from the world exterior thereto, which has then been supplemented by your own evaluation of that feeling. At the same time, you feel a glow of satisfaction arriving at your present moment of life from the fact of your having taken a delicious, roborific swallow of coffee a moment ago, and you feel good about that feeling. You have feelings of your own past experiences, that are traces of your past feelings; and you have feelings about those past feelings, such as judgements or desires. E.g., the judgement that the coffee has had a good effect upon you, and that other such effects would be welcome.
So, you have feelings that you have inherited from the past of the world in general, and also feelings about that portion of the past of the world that is included in your own personal career through life; and you have feelings about those feelings from the two departments of the past, the you department and the not-you department.
On the other hand, you have feelings about the future. There are things you feel are lacking in the present moment, that you wish were present; and there are things you feel are present to you at this moment, which you wish could be absent. You might for example feel right now that it would be nice to be chewing a croissant; meantime, you might also be feeling that it would be nice if you didn’t feel so hungry. These feelings are not about things that are present to you now, or that were present to you a moment ago, but about things that have never yet been present to you: namely, the feeling of chewing right now, and the feeling of satiety right now. True, you had a croissant yesterday, and felt sated; but the croissant of yesterday is not the croissant of today, nor likewise is yesterday’s satiety any comfort to this morning’s hunger. It is not as though you could chew yesterday’s croissant again right now, or feel yesterday’s satiety. No; these feelings of desire are about the future.
You have all these feelings you’ve somehow inherited from the past, and then you have all these feelings about the future. So here’s the question: where is that past, and where that future?
Look around. Whatever you see has arrived in your visual cortex, and in your mind, from the past. What you now see is the trace in the present of past events. But where now are those past events? They are not here anymore. They are somewhere else.
The same question is pertinent to the things that you desire. Where are they? Where is the world you would like to inhabit, and toward which your decisions and activities are ordered? It doesn’t exist yet, right? How then can it anywise operate in your present moment?
If the past is gone, and the future doesn’t yet exist, how can we have feelings about them?
Don’t get me wrong: by no means do I intend to cast a skeptical eye on the existence of the past and the real salience to this moment of the future. The past and the future are both somehow really out there, or else the terms and categories by which we interpret them as real factors of existence could never have made a bit of sense, or been at all useful. We would not in that case ever have conceived of them.
But where are they? We have all these feelings about things that don’t seem to be present. Indeed, the only thing that is present to us are these feelings about things that are not present to us. To be a mind is to be about other things than oneself; is to be intensional.
To put it as bluntly as possible: where now is the past, and where the future? They must be somewhere, or they could not matter to us – could play no role in our constitution.
They are not here, but they must be real, and they must be connected somehow, really connected, with this moment.
Where could they be, but in God, for whom all times are the present?