Life (is not) in the Rear-view Mirror

As we age, we sometimes look at life through the rear-view mirror, longing for a past often whitewashed by nostalgia. As a result, some of us fall into a funk, thinking the best days are what we can only experience by looking back.

I’m guilty of writing several pieces relating to stories of past events. Most tell of fond memories of an age of innocence, holidays gone by, meeting those who would become lifelong friends, or tales of those shared experiences that molded and shaped us.

While memories are important—and worth preserving for those moments when they can ease the pain of those trying times we also share—they are sanitized, exaggerated, or altered to fit our most essential desires. They are no more life than a photograph, a brief moment captured in time.

Such a backward-looking approach to life can blind us to the many opportunities to create new memories.

Time for us is linear, despite, as James Taylor sings in “The Secret of Life,”

“Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets a-spinning through space
The smile upon your face”

James Taylor, Secret of Life

While quantum physics contends there is no difference between time and other universal forces, for us, the arrow of time only goes in one direction and, sadly, with increasing velocity.

As a wise man once said to me when describing his current situation in life, “Joe, monthly magazines come every three days.”

So, while we all wish time would elongate and slow down it is finite and fleeting for all of us.

Thus, the criticality of balancing the comfort of pleasant and important memories with our life as we continue to live it.

Over the past two years (or what will be two years on April 29th), we have been most fortunate to have our grandson Levi bringing joy and wreaking havoc of the most enjoyable kind into our lives. For him, his young mind is a sponge taking in all the world and, hopefully, creating memories that will last a lifetime. (Disclaimer: I take no credit or blame for some of his recent vocabulary acquisitions.)

At this tender and innocent age, the memories may only be fragments of his experiences, but his ability to recall such moments will grow as rapidly as he does each moment. I hope he holds fast to the memories but only enough to offer a smile or a tear, then gets on with living.

From what I can see, he has embraced my love of reading. While the realities of technology will continue to challenge the experience of holding a book and quiet moments of reading, I think we have planted the seed for a lifetime of intellectual exploration.

As you can see from his method of selecting books, not by title or name or main character but by dumping the entire content (which increases almost weekly) of his bookbag on the ground, carefully examining each one, then selecting anywhere from one to the whole bag as the book(s) of the day, he has a variety of interests.

It is these moments—particularly for me when he hands me a book or ten, climbs up next to me, and lets me read to him—I can recall with immense joy and look forward to more such experiences for as long as he will tolerate this old guy.

Whatever memories we create with Levi and his soon-to-join us brother, as precious as they are, pale compared to those I’ve yet to make. 

Every once in a while, we all need a glance into life’s rear-view mirror. Of course it is essential to remember where we came from and the people who steered us along. But what is in front of us is the most precious aspect of life. Devote your moments to it.

Hold fast to your memories to inspire you to make new ones with whatever time life grants you on this planet.

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4 thoughts on “Life (is not) in the Rear-view Mirror

  1. Dear Joe, reading to a child is so rewarding, seeing their reaction to the story always made me smile. I read early before I went to school, I believe it was my Mothers practice of putting her finger under each word as she read to me. My Mother must have had a form of Dyslexia, she always read with a bookmark underlying each sentence. Her habit made an early reader out of me.

  2. Thank you Joe for a great reminder of the past, which may hold great memories, but it is still the past, and as such is gone forever. Except that is the 1966 Tigers, who will always be champs!!!

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