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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Good Old Days

We can't return we can only look / Behind from where we came 
~ Joni Mitchell,  The Circle Game

The past is not dead. It's not even past.
~ William Faulkner

What is so alluring about the past?  Ask anyone, better yet ask yourself what have you been thinking about lately and more than likely the reply will be something about the past.  The question itself is even oriented toward the past. My guess is that even putting the question as "what are you thinking now" would not change the response very much.  

There is something comfortable about the past, regardless of whether our memory of it is good or bad. Perhaps because it is so familiar, or maybe because we can make it what we want it to be by re-framing our thoughts about it.  We can take an unpleasant event and turn it positive, or a tragic event and make ourselves the victim or the hero. Or we can turn a rather benign event in to a tragedy. The reality is most of the stuff we remember probably never actually happened the way we remember it anyway.  The past literally is all in our minds, and sometimes all that is in our minds.  Most of the time the "good old days" are not nearly as good as we remember them to be. Our memories are but persistent illusions.

What would happen and how would our lives change if we shifted our persistent illusions of the past into persistent (or at least occasional) awareness of the present or persistent dreams of the future?  If it's all in our minds, then why not change what is in our minds?  Why not make the present and future what we want it to be?

Take the Bible for example.  Most of the stories in the Bible are forward looking dynamic stories.  They are stories of following visions and dreams, of experiencing liberation, of inhabiting new lands, of God's Presence (kingdom) among us here and now.  Oddly enough these same stories are filled with imperatives to "remember" them. The power of biblical memory is not to revel in or repeat the past, or worship past people and events, but rather to realize that the same visions and dreams, liberation, new lands, and Presence in these stories are ours as well - today and tomorrow. 

In the end, Faulkner and Mitchell are both correct. We can't escape the past, nor can we return to it.  However, we can in our minds create todays and tomorrows that when they are "old" really will be "good."  What we think really does matter! transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
~ The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:2

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