The past is, simply put, past.
People all too often look to this event in the past or that event of yesterday, and define almost everything in the now based upon the past.
The trouble is – you cannot change the past.
Pure and simple – you can’t undo past events or actions. They have happened. You can’t change them, you cannot undo them, you cannot redo them.
Knowing this and accepting the truth of this matter, here is the even more important part – you should not define your present or your future based on your past.
Yet every day we are inundated with examples of attempts to do exactly that. We have this incredible fascination with wanting to turn back the clock, to make the past come back into the present, to step back into that time and place and either relive its glory or stop the damage that it caused. This can be seen on a deeply personal level, like trying to return to a failed relationship, and on a grand scale like politicians trying to undo legislation that has already passed instead of creating new laws.
The past cannot be changed. You can only live in the here and now, and contemplate how the actions, thoughts, and emotions of the here-and-now will affect and bring about the future.
I am not my past. My mistakes, my successes, my failures of the past are not who I am now…they are who I WAS. They are behind me, they are in my past, and they can only define who I am in the here and now if I let them.
One thing to mention here and take to heart – not learning from my past mistakes, successes, failures and so forth will have an effect on my present and future. I may not be my past, but that does not at all mean the lessons learned back then are not invaluable. But with those learned lessons, the past must be left where it is, so that I can forge ahead to be who I am and to become whom I want to be.
Lamenting the past, yearning for what was, striving to undo what has been done becomes an obstacle to any path at all you may be choosing. The past needs to be left where it has fallen, and we have to move onwards. Forward motion is how you get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’. Going back and looking back to the past cannot move us forward. Looking back and moving forward are diametrically opposed.
Ok, fine. But aren’t those who neglect history doomed to repeat it? Yes. As I said before, we have to take our lessons from the past, learn how we succeeded or failed, learn how we loved or lost, in order to move forward along our path as we would most wish to choose. However, too many people define themselves by their past, rather than learning from it and leaving it behind.
I am who I am now because of who I was. This is true. Our past does color who we are in the here and now. But the problem we have a very hard time grasping (and I am having an interesting time explaining) is that whether it was good or bad, the past is neither the now nor the future. We have to take what we have experienced in the past, and while we leave it in the then, we have to live in the now.
Living in the past is impossible. This is true for several reasons. The first is that while time is cyclical, and relative, we still measure it on a line. That line moves forward, and as such we cannot go back and continue on. Very much in line with Pathwalking. Another reason is a bit more subjective – how we recall the past is often either romanticized or over-dramatized.
The “good old days” and that “simpler time” were probably excellent. But memory is a strange thing. And when we tie the mind with strong emotion, sometimes the mind embellishes a bit. I am sure times were good, but I think probably less amazing than our recollection is. The same is true of the “bad days” and that “difficult time”. I do not discount that they were probably awful, but the mind may embellish this as well, and our recollection is far worse than reality was.
Why do we choose to live in the past? Why do we hold onto the past rather than leave it behind? Because it is familiar. Because we know what to expect. The pain and pleasures of the past are known. The present is only sort of known, and full of choices. The future is utterly uncertain. But this is where Pathwalking comes in. We always have choices, and we can leave the past where it is, live in the present, and make choices to journey as we would most desire in order to influence the outcomes of the future.
Who I am, right at this moment, is in part made of who I was in the past. However, I can choose to live in the now, with eyes forward to the future, and if who I am is not who I want to be, I can make the choices to become that person. I can take the lessons of my past, learn what I can from them…and if there are parts I want to repeat, then I can choose how to take that forward from the now to the future. But who I was is past, and who I am is the person choosing the paths I will walk, now.
It seems to some degree a circular argument. Past is past, but still important to the now. But living in the past is not living in the now. And that is the important thing to take away from the statement that the past is past.
Do you live in and for the past, or in and for the now?
This is the ninety-fifth entry in my series. These weekly posts are specifically about walking along the path of life, and my desire to make a difference in this world along the way. Thank you for joining me.