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The first of these two types of mind, and it is, I think, the predominant type, the type of the majority of living people, is that which seems scarcely to think of the future at all, which regards it as a sort of blank non-existence upon which the advancing present will presently write events. The second type, which is, I think, a more modern and much less abundant type of mind, thinks constantly and by preference of things to come, and of present things mainly in relation to the results that must arise from them. The former type of mind, when one gets it in its purity, is retrospective in habit, and it interprets the things of the present, and gives value to this and denies it to that, entirely with relation to the past. The latter type of mind is constructive in habit, it interprets the things of the present and gives value to this or that, entirely in relation to things designed or foreseen.
While from that former point of view our life is simply to reap the consequences of the past, from this our life is to prepare the future. The former type one might speak of as the legal or submissive type of mind, because the business, the practice, and the training of a lawyer dispose him toward it; he of all men must constantly refer to the law made, the right established, the precedent set, and consistently ignore or condemn the thing that is only seeking to establish itself. The latter type of mind I might for contrast call the legislative, creative, organizing, or masterful type, because it is perpetually attacking and altering the established order of things, perpetually falling away from respect for what the past has given us. It sees the world as one great workshop, and the present is no more than material for the future, for the thing that is yet destined to be. It is in the active mood of thought, while the former is in the passive; it is the mind of youth, it is the mind more manifest among the western nations, while the former is the mind of age, the mind of the oriental.
Things have been, says the legal mind, and so we are here. The creative mind says we are here because things have yet to be.
Now I do not wish to suggest that the great mass of people belong to either of these two types. Indeed, I speak of them as two distinct and distinguishable types mainly for convenience and in order to accentuate their distinction. There are probably very few people who brood constantly upon the past without any thought of the future at all, and there are probably scarcely any who live and think consistently in relation to the future. The great mass of people occupy an intermediate position between these extremes, they pass daily and hourly from the passive mood to the active, they see this thing in relation to its associations and that thing in relation to its consequences, and they do not even suspect that they are using two distinct methods in their minds.
As well known as HG Wells is for his science fiction, this is simply HG Wells discussing our view of the present and the future and various nuances related to both. Very interesting.
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About the Author
H.G. Wells (1866-1946) published his first novel, The Time Machine, to critical and popular acclaim in 1895. Socially progressive and visionary in intellect, he became one of the most prolific writers of his generation. Through books like The Invisible Man and War of the Worlds, he explored a wide variety of social, philosophical, and political ideas through the medium of what we now call science fiction.
Date of Birth:September 21, 1866
Date of Death:August 13, 1946
Place of Birth:Bromley, Kent, England
Place of Death:London, England
Education:Normal School of Science, London, England