Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Presence of the Past

source: Dictionary.com

past /pæst, pɑst/ –adjective
1. gone by or elapsed in time: It was a bad time, but it's all past now.
2. of, having existed in, or having occurred during a time previous to the present; bygone: the past glories of the Incas.

In a recent episode of NPR's "Fresh Air," a Turkish author explained how the citizens and government of Turkey see the past as irrelevant, valueless, and unworthy or exploration - especially as it relates to the genocide of Armenians by Turkey. She and others have faced prison, and in at least one case, death, for even having acknowledged this historical event.

That's an incredibly ridiculous policy, as far as I'm concerned, but this case does raise the question of whether an individual or group sees the past as something worth exploration or best left behind.

Certainly, it's worth knowing where you've been to know where you're going - or where you don't WANT to go. However, there are often very painful elements of the past that involve suffering, death, and highly regrettable decisions.

Sometimes, our feelings about the past may change. We may enjoy nostalgic conversations with family members about painful moments of the past which have become amusing memories and stories for the present.

At other times, we may find ourselves hesitant to speak about fond memories of the past because they remind us of loved-ones, now lost. Or, there may be moments of pain from which we have moved on, so we fear revisiting them will serve no useful purpose and result only in renewed anguish.

What do you think?

Personally, I believe we are who we are because of the past - both the positive, perhaps especially, the painful elements. So, I think there's great value in taking the time to look back, exploring that which came before, for the purpose of ensuring a better present and future.

That said, I believe there's a certain balance we should seek in all things, including revisiting the past. Just as there's a difference between visiting a place and dwelling there, we should recognize the difference between revisiting the past and dwelling on it for too long.

Certainly, the ghosts of the past can grab us and hold tight, pulling us deeper into despair and depression, but the past also consists of benevolent spirits trying to help us to move forward with greater appreciation and purpose.

That's what I think. What about you?


Xiasuko said...

I agree, the past is important, but there must be a balance. There must also be growth. Those who hold too strongly to those "regrettable decisions" or painful memories cannot grow and will not learn from those mistakes. At the same token, those quick to abandon what's past truly are destined to repeat it, so they won't grow either.

Miz JJ said...

I try not to spend too much time looking backwards. My favorite saying use to be "It is what it is." Meaning it happened now time to move on.

Paula D. said...

West, I agree that it is okay to revist the past & not dwell there. I concur with you on that we are who we are because of past experience (positive & negative).