MT, March 2016
We're always using the past to talk about the present, though. During my run today I was thinking about the idea of the "blank mind" and how self-contradictory that is, because a mind is made of meaning. Neural connections form as the result of stimuli; they don't grow in a bubble. Even before you're born you're taking in sense data. The way we use language is similar—I'm aware as I write a particular word of the other times I've used it, perhaps where I learned it, and if someone's said it to me recently. These things are part of the personal text I produce, layers of meaning that nobody else can see, except maybe someone who's reading what I write here and paying enough attention that they catch my consciously self-referential repetition. Sometimes it's for a particular person who I can't assume is reading or even remembers they used that turn of phrase to begin with.
That's a slightly convoluted example, so here's a better one: I only know about neurons because of learning about them in classes. We wouldn't be having this conversation if I hadn't had that past experience, we'd just be pointing to objects in the room, so talking over the internet would be impossible due to lack of shared context. Memory isn't separate from the thoughts we have in the present, it's the medium that allows us to think at all.