Past and future tense

LOCAL TRADITION: John Hayes switches on Spalding's Christmas lights.
LOCAL TRADITION: John Hayes switches on Spalding's Christmas lights.
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MP John Hayes writes for

Amongst my Christmas presents was a DVD of the most recent film adaptation of one of the greatest novels of the 20th century – The Great Gatsby, written by, arguably, the finest American writer of his time.

The lush glamour F. Scott Fitzgerald describes certainly translates well to film. But it’s not only the elegant images of a world we don’t and can’t know that captivate, Fitzgerald – through his creation Jay Gatsby – poses profound questions about the relationship between people and time.

The final words of this literary masterpiece summarize the novel’s essence - “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out arms further...And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.

Having spent a great deal of time thinking about its passage; considering the relationship between the past, present and future, like Gatsby I’ve concluded that the past matters as much as the future.

After all, we are what we remember; shaped by who we’ve met, where we’ve been, what we’ve done. The present is an illusion as now becomes then in an instant and anyway most of now is filled with memories or plans for the future.

Existence as a continuum obliges reflection, yet much of modern culture is preoccupied by the immediate. With little sense of history and less concern for the future, people become interested only in the gratification of their current material desires. Too often these days sound bites drown out the music of time and gentle contemplation is replaced by a ceaseless hunger for new thrills.

None of this has to be, because, as Gatsby knew, we can make the future we want. For there is no pre-determined course of history, no inevitable future which we are powerless to alter, no clock which moves without us setting or winding it.

As a Conservative, I’m convinced that the collective wisdom of ages – the understanding of all those who came before us – is bound to be greater than the fads and fashions of any single generation, which is why things that are time honoured matter.

In our local traditions, from church flower festivals to Lincolnshire sausages, we enjoy the legacy left by our forefathers.

Local and national institutions matter too, for they embody the wisdom we’ve inherited. As your MP, I do all I can to defend these traditions and institutions because learning from them and adding to them is what we owe the future.

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