What would you think of a belief system that states that talking or thinking about the past, has no value for the present? “The past,” it says, “is a canceled check. You can’t buy anything with it. The present,” it says, “ is a check to be cashed to buy the future.”
Lovely words, indeed, but they mask the problem that exists with the acceptance of “aphorisms” (a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation) as dogged pronouncements of absolute “truth.” By defending the value of recognizing and mining the past, we do not, as those words suggest, diminish the larger importance of the “present.” And we can always find an aphorism that abjectly states a contrary case, i.e.: “A man cannot free himself from the past more easily than he can from his own body,” Andre Maurois – “The past is not a package one can lay away,” Emily Dickenson, “The past lies upon the present like a giant’s dead body,” Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginning.” Ralph Blum, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards,” Soren Kierkegaard. “Study the past if you would define the future,” Confucius, “The past can’t hurt you anymore, unless you let it.” Alan Moore, “If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past, “ Baruch Spinoza, (bless us, Google will show you over a thousand of these – and I picked from them.) The past, to me, represents the foundation of the present. We are who we are, as a result of who we were. And that is to be acknowledged and respected and even nit-picked in order to understand ourselves better. This does not mean we are “dwelling” upon it, but rather seeing it as one piece of the puzzle that is self. And when thinking or talking about “the past” we can still exercise our golden “right” to choose which of the elements we wish to consider. But if, when considering the past, it continues to inflict pain, then we still have the ”present” to confront it, to learn to from it, and to find ways to work out the process of diminishing that pain.
And since we eternally dwell in the present, we are currently living in the time of the year when we would do well to continue our thoughts of giving thanks and giving back to our communities, for all the good things we have – the people we love who love us back, the freedoms we have in this country that do not exist globally, and the ability we all have to choose positive thoughts and actions and to pursue proactive paths of healing. In this way, the past becomes our present.
With holidays on our tail, we can remember the good ones with nostalgia and we can use those memories as a blanket to wrap around our present. The bad ones we can choose to expunge because – “life is a river of choices.” And I choose to wish you all the best of holidays surrounded by love and thoughts of peace.