“There is no past we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternal now that builds and creates out of the past something new and better” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).
WE CAN’T LIVE IN ANYTHING BUT THE PRESENT MOMENT, BUT THE PRESENT MOMENT OUGHT TO BE USED BUILDING THINGS THAT WILL HAVE SOME VALUE IN THE FUTURE. Specifically what is to be built will differ from person to person, depending upon the interests, abilities, and opportunities of each individual, but in one way or another, all of us need to be engaged in the work of building. It’s hard work, of course — much harder than tearing down. But building is what we ought to be busy doing.
Actually, building is an activity from which we instinctively derive satisfaction. The world in which we live is such that a certain amount of building has to be done by us, even for our bare survival, and our natures are such that this necessary work is something we find joy in doing, if we think about the matter rightly. Whether or not we acknowledge the fact or do anything worthwhile about it, most of us have a deeply ingrained tendency or need to be building something. And no small part of our happiness depends on whether we have a healthy means of satisfying our building impulse.
To be builders, however, we have to rise above cynicism. Defying those who say that nothing we do will make any difference, we have to believe that at least some of the building we’re capable of doing in this world is worth the effort. Despite short-term discouragements, we have to trust that, in the long run, it does some good to do good.
And not only that, but we must be willing to build for the benefit of others. “The fate of the architect is the strangest of all,” wrote Goethe. “How often he expends his whole soul, his whole heart and passion, to produce buildings into which he himself may never enter.”
But finally, think about this: of all the things any of us can build, none is more beautiful, or important, than love. Even if in the past we’ve torn down more than we’ve built up, today can be well spent if we build a bigger love in our hearts than has ever been there before.
And ruin’d love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.