The past has relevance

The past is a work of art, free of irrelevancies and loose ends. Max Beerbohm

At first glance, the quote seems confusing and illogical, but a careful relook would bring to the fore a wide variety of insights. The best way to understand it is to isolate the three key thoughts and study each of it independently.  When one talks of the past as a work of art, the idea that is reinforced is that of a finished canvas that is on display. Most times it will be filled with colors of various hues, sometimes it would be interplay between shades of the same color and occasionally it would be simply black and white colors that are skillfully used. The images could be sceneries, portraits, freehand drawings, nudes or modern art each of which has it’s own admirers and critics. What is to be noted is that no matter what colors are used or what style is depicted, the canvas is complete and the art lovers have to accept it as it is.  Our past is like that finished canvas; it is on display, it has its own individuality and above all it can’t be changed.

To see the past as free of irrelevancies simply means that the reality of the past cannot be lumped and dumped as irrelevant. Ask any psychologist and they will tell you that the past holds the key to many of our current and future behavior. It is rightly said that history repeats itself for history is nothing but a compilation of the past human behavior and sooner or later the same behavior will repeat itself albeit in a different context or setting. Furthermore one cannot brush aside the past because if we study it, we can see a pattern emerging which will be crucial for us to predict the future and even anticipate the future. Every incident of the past would have been triggered by some event or thought and hence that event and thought becomes very relevant for us to analyze he past. While the past cannot be changed, the relevance of the lessons learned could be extremely useful in planning our future.

Since the past is a reality gone by, there are no loose ends to be tied up. On the contrary the lessons of  the past must be viewed as offering clarity about both the reasons for successes and failures. The past offers a fair measure of objectivity for study and analysis because the reality is well woven into the fabric of life that has been lived. With the passage of time and the wisdom of hindsight, the past offers  a concrete beginning and end that can be traced back from start to finish, with little room for speculation. Speculation is nothing but tying up the loose ends and since the past is over and done with one has only to accept the reality as it appears.

Remember: “What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new, right now.

Try this:

  1. Jot down 3 major successes and 3 failures from your past. How did the events impact your thought process, your performance thereafter  and your dreams?
  2. Name 3 things of the past that given a chance you would have liked to correct. Now is it possible to apply this learning for your future. Eg. You could say I wish I studied harder in school. Can you make more efforts on your job now instead of brooding over the past?

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