On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
We May Never Meet Again
Older folks tend to look back in time more often than youngsters do. The older we become, the more time we have to devote to our private thoughts and the nostalgia that seems to be one mark of older generations. After retirement, we have the extra time to pause and reflect; and thus we begin to put the past into perspective. All of it; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
After all, there is more free time to review the GOOD and relish the memories of the best ball games we were in, especially the ones our team won. And it takes less time to forget the BAD parts of the games we lost. That is all for the better, especially if those losses were also UGLY. Besides, now we don’t have to worry about the upcoming games. We won’t be playing in them.
Looking back in time is neither healthy nor unhealthy. It all depends upon the context of the reverie; the purpose of the ventures into the past; and the attitude of the one who summons past events. On the one hand, a person who looks back only to seek out pleasant memories is likely to be a person with a clear conscience and a cheerful disposition; but may have never encountered the ugliness of war, violence, or needless suffering. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the person who harbors enough lasting bitterness, that thoughts of the past lead to remembrances of individual acts of cruelty, suffering and injustice; inflicted on their persons or on others. Those kinds of episodes into looking back are unlikely to be pleasant ones.
Pragmatists and realists in this world are likely to be people who have personal baggage replete with memories that include the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY; yet know how to put them into perspective and then manage that perspective. We cannot change the past, but we can rationalize about what that past has meant to us. We can place a value on those memories in order to boost the joys, repair the damage; and heal the wounds within ourselves. The common prayer of acceptance that should be part of the fabric of our very personalities is a very familiar one. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
When it comes to reflecting on the events of the past, we know that we cannot change them. But we also know that we can pledge to ourselves to henceforth let the GOOD shine; shield the BAD from others; and quarantine the UGLY for evermore. There is a future for all of us, be it brief or not. Some day, starting with tomorrow, that future will be part of our past. What pleasant memories, what noble acts, and what plans to make amends are in store to supplant the regrettable bad and ugly episodes that we wish could be cleansed?
Part of the sub-conscious aura of looking in the rearview mirror of life has to do with our own sense of taking stock about ourselves. How well did we, as individuals, turn out in relation to our potentials?... to the opportunities we were given?... how did we ourselves choose to participate in the good?... the bad?... and the ugly?
The other side of the coin with a smiling face of happy and pleasant memories, has the sombre face of our personal regrets. We all wish that some things had turned out differently. Not one of us reading these lines can deny that; and if we had it to do over again, we would have done many things differently. And we would have said things differently, or said nothing at all. Yes, we regret some of what we said; and we also regret what we didn't say.
For most of us, that aspect of our secret nostalgia has to do with the love, the tenderness and the emotions we embraced; but did not or could not express. Too often the encounter came with a foregone knowledge that we may never meet again. Parting is such sweet sorrow.