The future never arrives but present changes and choices mean that the present is changing in a certain direction, becoming more like a place of peace or war, well being or sickness. Some consequences are very improbable, others are virtually certain. If you don’t wear a hat in the rain your head will almost certainly get wet. So a well informed picture of possible futures is a guide to the direction of change and tells us how our actions may steer it so that the present changes in a direction that reduces our personal or collective suffering.
The past exists only now as traces and imprints of earlier forms in shapes and structures of the present. Based on those imprints we form mental images of things that leave their traces here as they dissolve and feed the ground of energy and atoms.
From those traces in external things and our personal memories we elaborate a concept of time as a continuum between all past, present and future things. Between what no longer exists, what exists and what does not yet exist, between decaying or growing actualities of now and what is condensing from immediate possibilities of now into the decaying or growing actualities of now.
Significantly the actual present does not descend from some future state but from its present future possibilities.
Likewise the past does not descend from the present but consists only of older aspects of the present, like factual events such as the recent century’s genocides which cannot be made to Unhappen any more than a corpse can rise from the grave and return to its mother’s womb. Still their traces in matter and human memory will fade even as they continue to shape the future of the unfolding present.
The oldest forms of now, their substance lost in the atomic fields, are little more than the traces of them that now exist as their causal effects whether biological, behavioural or cultural, on their descendants or other present forms.
The immediate moment is where some of its inherent probabilities are giving birth to and becoming the immediate future while others remain latent or dissolve.
Latent images of the past exist in the forms of the present, images which become visible to the eyes of memory and reason. The images exist because the past exists in a fourth dimension of each material form.
Latent images of the future also exist because the present also contains an ever changing array of possible or probable futures. But these futures do not exist beyond present events but only as their inherent possible consequences.
We humans move constantly from a past that never departs, toward a future that never arrives because the past exists only as the causal and developmental structure of each present event and the future exists only as a present set of its more or less probable effects. The sum of all causes is the immediate present, the sum of all their probable effects is what the present is probably becoming as parts of it continue to grow and other parts decay
We conveniently say that the past falls away as we move on into the future but we never move beyond the continuously changing present and its latent, continuously changing past. The oldest parts of the past dissolve into fragments and those fragments dissolve and do not cease to exist but change into the atomic substance of all present forms.
So nothing moves from the changing present into the nonexistent future and nothing moves from the eternally changing present into the past because the past is not actually past but the sum of all growing and dissolving forms we conveniently call the present.
The present moment is both the immediate past and the immediately unfolding future because there is not a nanosecond between them. The only real moment is what is unfolding now. It has been unfolding since the beginning of time and it will continue to unfold until time ends but at no point in its unfolding does it become a past moment tho it makes memories as it goes.
Likewise it does not at any point become a future moment but is always the unfolding now. As it unfolds the present array of possible future nows changes because each move on the chess board of now conditions what choices and changes can still occur. If Nestle drains your water table you will have to buy water or move. If all the lions starve your unfolding now will never include the splendour of a living lion.