“How long did it take you to paint this picture?” an art aficionado asked the painter. The painter hesitated, and contemplating his next birthday, reacted, “Thirty-six years.”
The painter was right. The time of painting that picture could not be counted by the days he spent in stroking brush and paint to canvas. The painter’s every experience was part of it. His appreciation of splendor, his delicacy of discernment, his ability to subjugate every disruption to the benefit of productive devotion, was developed in him by all the years of his life. Every past canvas he had done had helped educate his hand for his present-day work.
We live at any one moment with our total past. We hate with all our past hatreds. We love with all our past loves. Every sunset we have ever seen has shaped our sense of the beautiful. Every bar of music we have listened to is encompassed in our response to a tune, which now rings in our ears.
John Dewey, celebrated American philosopher and proponent of the philosophical tradition of pragmatism, argued that past experiences influence future experiences. Dewey asserted that all experiences impact on one’s future, for better or worse. Fundamentally, cumulative experience either shuts one down or opens up one’s access to possible future experiences.
Experience refers to the nature of the events we have undergone. Experience is what is happening to us all the time—as we long we exist. This is why it is so important that we be cautious in what we make of each day. It will stay with us always.