Sunday, June 12, 2016

LET THE PAST STAY IN THE PAST

There’s a great saying—actually, there are many of them—that one hears regularly in twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It is this---‘Let the past stay in the past.’

Here’s a little story that I like. An old Chinese farmer was walking along a road. He had a stick across his shoulder, and hanging from the stick was a pot filled with soybean soup. The old farmer stumbled and the pot fell to the ground, breaking into many pieces, with the result that the contents of the pot spilled out all over the road. The farmer kept walking, unperturbed.

A man rushed up to the farmer and said excitedly, ‘Don’t you know that your pot just broke? Why didn’t you turn around and take a look?’ The old farmer replied, ‘Yes, I know that. I heard it fall. The pot’s broken. The soup is gone. But what can I do about it? Nothing.’

There’s a saying, not from twelve-step programs, that says pretty much the same thing---‘It’s no use crying over spilled milk.’

Things go wrong in life. Shit happens. We all stuff up from time to time. The past cannot be changed, although some things can be made good. No amount of worry will change the past. Let it stay in the past. I love this quatrain from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The past is gone. It exists only as a present memory or hurt. Let it go. Don’t be like Lot’s wife in the Book of Genesis. She was told not to look behind her, lest she be swept away. She chose to look back, and she became a pillar of salt.


So, dear friends, let the past stay in the past. And when I say the past I am referring not only to past occurrences, events and happenings but also to all our negative ‘hangovers’ from the past in the form of such things as bad memories, regrets and resentments. Be done with them all, if you want peace of mind. Don't look back. 

I will finish with these words from Elmer Rice’s play Dream Girl:

If you can make a dream come to life, grab hold of it. But if it dies on you, roll up your sleeves and give it a decent burial, instead of trying to haul the corpse around with you.


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