In a famous passage from his 1938 book The Realm of Truth, the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana compared time to a flame running along a fuse. The flame’s position marked the present moment, speeding forward but never backward as the fuse disappeared behind it. “The essence of nowness,” Santayana remarked, “runs like fire along the fuse of time.” Each spark along the fuse represents one of the “nows” that transform the future into the past and “combine perfectly to form the unchangeable truth of history.”
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