Forget the past. Those failures that make you timid now? Screw them. Today is a new day. So you lost a great deal of what you had. So what? The future is before you. Press on.
Learn from the past. Be aware of those who have gone before or you are doomed to repeat their mistakes. They were not really that much different than you. This is how you approach life with wisdom. Don’t start a new church with your Bible and disregard 2000+ years of church history, as if all the saints were clods and all the reformers nothing but axe grinders. The ancient past is rich. Dig deep.
You don’t have to be defined by them. You need not carry on their curses, nor keep your own curses alive.
You are not alone. You are the next thread in a rich tapestry. Do not despair.
And this from Billy Collins:
Some Final Words
I cannot leave you without saying this: the past is nothing, a nonmemory, a phantom, a soundproof closet in which Johann Strauss is composing another waltz no one can hear.
It is a fabrication, best forgotten a wellspring of sorrow that waters a field of bitter vegetation.
Leave it behind. Take your head out of your hands and arise from the couch of melancholy where the window-light falls against your face and the sun rides across the autumn sky, steely behind the bare trees, glorious as the high strains of violins.
But forget Strauss. And forget his younger brother, the poor bastard who was killed in a fall from a podium while conducting a symphony.
Forget the past, forget the stunned audience on its feet, the absurdity of their formal clothes in the face of sudden death, forget their collective gasp, the murmur and huddle over the body, the creaking of the lowered curtain.
Forget Strauss with that encore look in his eye and his tiresome industry: more than five hundred finished compositions! He even wrote a polka for his mother. That alone is enough to make me flee the past, evacuate its temples, and walk alone under the stars down these dark paths strewn with acorns, feeling nothing but the crisp October air, the swing of my arms and the rhythm of my stepping- am man of the present who has forgotten every composer, every great battle, just me, a thin reed blowing in the night.
There is a question, sometimes posed as a lament, in many of the writings I’ve come across lately. I could write down quite a list, but I don’t actually remember all the places. Another one came at me today though. It is the idea that there used to still be adventures to be had, unexplored places to chart, great feats to accomplish, but that for the most part, they are all gone. I remember reading as a child about the mysterious jungle of the Congo and how there was still things in there that no man had ever seen and lived to write about. That was an exciting prospect. But now, we have GPS, and I can pull up Google maps and grab the satellite imagery of my own car parked in the lot of my office building. Then I can swing it over a few degrees and peer deep into Africa and see right where that dangerous path by the waterfall leads. What’s the point in going there now?
Thomas Merton, in his book Mystics and Zen Masters, (which is about 90% straight-up history and reads like a graduate dissertation), discusses the story of St. Brendan‘s expeditions and how he found an island paradise somewhere beyond the Atlantic. Nobody could ever find it again though, but tales like this fueled exploration and also deeper desires inside of us. Christopher Columbus would have been well aware of this particular (myth?) when he set out to the new world. Merton (writing in the 1960’s) discusses how the complete mapping of the earth has changed the face of spiritual pilgrimage and wandering. Searching for that special place has forever lost some of it’s potency. Nevertheless, we will pilgrim on because the thing that drives us inside of has not diminished one bit. We are still looking for our creator.
The protagonist in Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novel The Nautical Chart wrestles with this same deep issue:
Because after so many novels, so many films, and so many songs, there weren’t even innocent drunks anymore. And Coy asked himself, envying him, what the first man felt the first time he went out to hunt a whale, a treasure, or a woman, without having read about it I a book.
…the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself.” (That is, that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.)
This weekend (it was Easter weekend), Terry Gross on NPR interviewed a Jesus scholar. Of course he went on an on about how the resurrection didn’t actually happen, but was the hope of the early apostles “projected” on reality. Kind of a modified gnostic view. He emphasized how he didn’t like non-Christians making the question of the resurrection a dichotomy of actual vs. metaphorical. He preferred literal vs. metaphorical. See, it really did actually happen (metaphorically).
Geesh. Were do they dig these people up? There is a significant list of brilliant Christian historians and scholars who actually have an orthodox view of the resurrection, and with many good reasons behind it. But no, we can’t possibly give them air time. Only whack-jobs allowed.
I was griping about this out-loud on my way to the grocery store and my daughter pipes up in the back: