Looking back

Yesterday a large flock of Canada geese piloted their way onto the Mississippi River. What made their congregation noticeable was the icy surface of the river upon which they landed. While I cannot say for certain that the river – or part of it – was indeed covered by ice it came across from my withdrawing room window to be the case. I kept searching to see whether the geese were skating. Today as I look upon the river it is buried in a soft grey fog. How soon the clarity of yesterday dissolves into a mist.

I ocassion this opaque mass upon a moderately rising ambient temperature. It is likely sufficient only to bump the record above freezing. Meanwhile the haziness is enigmatic. My recollection of the boundaries of the river has in an instant been obscured from sight. There is now discernible only a misty valley adjacent the meadow. It is a picture which dissipates into the horizon and blends into the tree line. The sky above is a dome of fog upon the whole.

What, I ask, is a more apt instance to look back? The present is obscured; the future is indecipherable; there remains for the moment only the past upon which to cogitate. Ironically for someone my advanced age – that is, at the midpoint of the 7th decade – the most entertaining prospect of life is logically back not forward. I submit to this.

Foremost however is the curious acknowledgement that there is nothing about my past which is of importance. I say this not as one driven by modesty (a fault I have never cultivated). Rather it is a confession of the unspoken reality of all our lives; namely, it is our currency which is of consequence. Even if one were President of the World (albeit a singular distinction) the divertissement stems not from a record of the past rather from the flavour and sparkle of the present. We are in that respect a myopic lot; namely, our pitiable focus is narrow and limited. The present about covers the scope. Mightn’t I say even its parochial nature? It matters not, certainly not for a rustic such as I.  And proudly so I might iterate.

If I were to be insightful about my past, I might divide it into the following arena:

  1. What I wish to say about it;
  2. What I imagine others may prefer to say about it;
  3. What I’ve never considered about it; and,
  4. What counts the most?

The first question by which to introduce the enquiry is very much like a résumé or curriculum vitae; that is, a palatable, historic account of one’s self-styled accomplishments.  This can be boring, relevant to educational instruction and employment experience, not exactly riveting entertainment even if scintillating to an academic. To lapse into travel, love and mad enterprise is not normally within the scope. Family matters are anecdotal and overall uninstructive. Lineage speaks not to oneself but to one’s predecessors. Inheritance other than poetic endowment is of vulgar possessory rights.

The second question about what others may prefer to say is entirely speculative.  I don’t think any of us has a clear idea about what others think of us; nor do I think it matters in the least. Indeed being motivated emotionally or otherwise by what people think of us is a craggy ascent or descent. I view this debate strictly as a matter of logic; that is, a reasonable conclusion of the possibilities.  Relying upon the inclination or prejudices of others is an assured vehicle by which to override our own inclinations and prejudices.  I see no possibility of doing anything meaningfully except within the boundaries of our own manifestations and misfortunes.  Accordingly this particular investigation will be for naught.

As for the third question, what we’ve never considered of our past, this to my thinking is an intensely engaging investigation.  The quiz is especially invigorating because it presumes – as well I think it should – that there are many features of our past which we’ve never accounted as material (or may have hidden from observation). Partially the conundrum reflects the further inconspicuous reality of life that, “If you’ve got it, you don’t talk about it!” In short an interrogation of this topic might well expand upon our past in ways we had not previously examined because we hadn’t attached singularity to the event.  I think we all take for granted many of the events in our lives which are upon reflection far more peculiar and significant than we may otherwise have pondered.

Finally, what counts the most?  Unquestionably this summary is itself the most far-reaching because it surpasses all others.  It is the ultimate distillation and refinement.  In the end there is very little of materiality that will obscure what counts the most.  It is by its succinctness a heady enquiry forcing us into the range of intellectualism and emotion. It forces us to push to the side all but the most compelling elements of life.  Invariably what counts the most will be the present. To dwell upon anything else is mournfully historic or speciously futuristic.