The good memories we have of the past always seems more glorious than it really was. The more distant the past, the more glorious the good memories we have seem. The fact is many of us like to look at the past from time to time. But because it exists in our heads, our perception of events can be subjective.
Maybe the past was rosier than it is now. Maybe it was not. One thing is certain the past is the past. Living in the past or trying to recreate the past is hardly possible. Unless we realize this, we may face disappointment or even danger.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Lately, I have been watching the 2002 cartoon remake of 1980s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This remake was enjoyable. It made me realized how much I missed the campy and cheesy characters from my childhood. I even started looking on EBay for some of the relaunched toys that followed the cartoon. Thus far, I managed to get my favourite bumbling villain, Skeletor, yesterday. He is the first, but not the last, of the characters I wish to get.
But even though Skeletor is now standing proudly on my desk, things are not the same.
Changes: Then and Now
Firstly, I have changed. I am much older and no longer the kid I was, well, not really. Secondly, I see things very differently from my childhood days. As a result, the characters I used to enjoy lack a certain depth. Still, it is some consolation to like the more serious characters now.
Thirdly, circumstances have changed. There is much more on my plate today compared to my carefree childhood. So many other things require my attention. I also have a great deal more interests today than I had in the past. The Masters of the Universe is merely one of them and it will not remain at the top of my list for long.
Lastly, the times have changed. The 80s was almost thirty years ago. I cannot believe it was that long ago when it feels like yesterday. While I may feel nostalgia for that period, I have no wish to return to that bygone era. What will I do without Wikipedia and Facebook?
The result of my clinging to the past is nostalgia. But as I said, I have changed too much to cling to this cartoon for long. It is nothing more than a passing fad for me. Apart from a slight hole in my pocket and a little overindulgence, there are no dangerous side effects. But what happens when an empire clings to the past and refuses to change?
The Dangers of Clinging to the Past
Many people may have heard of the Roman Empire. Ridley Scott’s Gladiator played a large part no doubt. But fewer people know how the Roman Empire ended. Fewer still were aware of its successor, the Eastern Roman Empire aka the Byzantine Empire.
Byzantium endured for another thousand years after the fall of the West. Constantly under attack from the outside and inside, it never managed to achieve the might of the Roman Empire. But this did not stop it from trying to restore its glorious past.
The Byzantines proved to be very resilient. They came back from the brink of extinction many times. But each time they did, they looked to the past for guidance. In the end, one of the many reasons for their extinction was because they clung too closely to the old ways until it was too late to change. Their enemies did not have this handicap and continued to innovate until they beat the Byzantines. Despite their thousand-year history, the Byzantines are nothing more than a lost civilization in textbooks today.
Harmony with the Past, Present and Change
The past can be a hindrance or a help. It all depends on how we manage it.
1. Lessons of the Past
There are lessons we can learn from our past and the past. Some of these lessons are timeless and serve as a good guide in any age. Other lessons are not so relevant and some are nothing more than memories. Here, we must be careful in distinguishing the difference amongst the various pieces of our past. If need be, we have to make adjustments to apply past lessons to the present.
We can no longer change the past, but we can still affect the present and the future with our choices and actions. So, we must remember to act and choose wisely.
2. The Hindrance of the Past
The past belongs to the past. The specific set of conditions that make up the past will never happen again. While we should not deny or turn our backs on the past that make up our lives today, we must be wary of living in the past. For instance, we may cling to past hurts or relationships when we should let go and move on. Or we may cling to the old ways and refuse to venture out of our comfort zones until it is too late. Clinging to the past in this manner may cause it to become a hindrance to us in our present and our future.
When the past becomes a hindrance, we must be aware of the shackles that chain us to it. This awareness will help us to see the present more objectively. When we can separate our past from our present, we will be able to make good choices in the now.
3. Making Peace with the Past
Our lives are the sum of our experiences. What will we be without our past? When we have made peace with ourselves, we can look back on our past without too much attachment. Good times become good memories. Unhappy times become lessons from which we learn. Who knows, our experiences may one day serve as examples for others to follow.
How do you see and manage your past? What are the fond memories you have? How often do you reflect and indulge in a little nostalgia? Do share your thoughts and comments below!