In Times Past, and Somewhere in Between

by David King on June 20, 2013

green-light-1 Once upon a time, things were easy.

That’s the curse of adulthood though, isn’t it – to look upon the past with eyes of envy and regret. It is how most lives are played out, with one foot rising toward the future and the other planted firmly in the past. To free it, to loosen it from its grip, is to truly live.

But it is not without its sacrifices, for the past is who we are. The past is everywhere we’ve ever been; it’s every breath we’ve taken, every word we’ve ever spoken, every memory formed. We are very little, it would seem, without these pasts that restrict us so.

This is the predicament of adulthood; the challenge of moving forward in time. We are all caught in it, at some point along the way. Some fare worse than others, of course, but none of us can blame any other for such sad retrospection. There are heartbreaks in the reminiscence, after all; melancholy in the nostalgia. No story is without its romances.

It is a tale told well by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby was haunted by his past – haunted nightly by the green light of his former lover, just across the water, so near his reach, it seemed. The envy, the greenness, both propelled him forward and held him back, moving him through time so as to only return him to what once was. His confidant, Nick, cautions him, “You can’t repeat the past.” But Gatsby is relentless in his drive, blind to less predictable futures. “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” Of course you can…

And so, like many others before him, Gatsby fails in his commitment to the past. Such a steady course proves impossible in the end, too far from reach, and altogether incompatible with the present. Such moderation of time’s passing is always a risk. And while some are successful, others find themselves forever lost, their grip held too tightly, perhaps.

In my own life, I have had my fair share of such inner battles. I too have struggled with the passing of time, with romances lost and adventures never had. Reduced to mere memories and dreams, like whispers from behind my back – but when I turn, no one is there.

Upon reflection, it seems that clarity may be difficult to come by. How does one define himself while also moving forward, avoiding the pitfalls of reminiscence and even reverence over what once was? How do I move on now, knowing what I know? How can we truly find ourselves in THIS day, in THIS time, with all the remnants and the recollections, and the scars? Should we shut our eyes to the green light; to that which breaks through the darkness? Or should we try to hold on to all that came before? He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand. “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly.

The same songs that struck me in my youth strike me now, as if new again, and they give me hope. They tell me, simply, that there is something in between it all – between the past and the present, and between futures unknown. They tell me that we must try to do both. We must rise each morning and open our eyes for the first time as if each day is the beginning, as if each day is all there is. And somehow, in the midst of all that, we must never forget.

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