Past and Present

I cannot understand the debate of using present tense vs. using past tense in writing a story. It doesn’t make any difference to me, but since I am not a native speaker of English, I thought I could learn something from the debate and how other people feel about this issue. So far I haven’t grasped the difference and couldn’t comprehend how this issue becomes an issue. The present tense doesn’t give me a sense of urgency and past tense doesn’t seem passe. If one day using the future tense becomes fashionable, I won’t feel either the accompanied anxiety or the appropriate longing. Am I obtuse?

Is it because in many Asian languages, tense is negligible? In Malay tense doesn’t matter much. In Chinese it’s nonexistent. In Japanese, it is barely existing. So I never manage to develop an idea, perception, or feeling for tense. I wonder if people–native speakers–have more rapport with “drive” than “drove”, “eat” than “ate”. Well, a drive now is probably than a drive yesterday, and an average meal at present better than a wonderful banquet yesterday. How else can I interpret the difference?

Same happens to passive and active voice. I don’t feel the difference and cannot understand why one is preferred over the other. Is it because I am too old to encounter the passive voice? “I do something” and “something is done by me” has no more significance than an insignificant rearrangement of words.

Probably I don’t have ears for such things, as much as I don’t have ears for vowels. Years ago my art teacher in school told me that I don’t have eyes, without which I won’t be able to paint. Then my physical education teacher told me that I don’t have a waist that is strong enough to help me with javelin throwing. Well, what can I say? Existence before essence, which means existence before missing body parts and inadequacies.

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