Life, it goes on and on and on, leaving behind it a trail of our past. In the backdrop of music and smells, movies and literature, people and places, phases and stages, love and loathing, joys and sorrows our life flows. And yet as we move from one milestone of life to another, we can’t help but wonder – what does it all come to? Having receded never to return again, the past counts to nothing. Nothing about it can be replayed or undone. The moment is gone, the deed is done and time moves on.
But does the past really come to naught? Is our life really all ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’ (Shakespeare)? Does this ‘nothing’, which is our past, mean anything at all?
Eventually life for all of us is just a memory but through our memories emerges the person we become. The incidents of our life leave an impression on our mind, which determines our future behaviour. The basis of our reaction to our environment is largely determined by our interactions in the past.
If our trust was broken at an early stage in life, we become suspicious of all our future relationships. Sometimes it scars us for life because the seed of doubt ruins the most trustworthy of relationships. Hence, our past has a strong bearing on our present, whether it’s in relation to our choices, preferences, aversions and obsessions, fears and failures. And our childhood, when our understanding of the world is negligible plays, perhaps the most vital role in it.
During our childhood, our understanding of the world may be negligible, but our instinct of fear and craving for security is alive and throbbing. As adults we assume that since a child’s faculty of understanding and comprehending the world is not yet developed, we can ignore them and do with them and with ourselves what we like.
But even during this nascent stage, the impression of the acts gets ingrained on our mind and our human instinct either accepts the impressions or is repelled by it.
The memory may fade as all memories do, with time, but the feeling of being valued and cherished or being ignored or violated remains. According to Jean Paul Sartre, “Every man has his natural place; it is not pride or worth that settles its height; childhood decides everything.”
Since childhood is an important part of our memory, as adults (parents in particular) it is our duty to provide warm and happy memories for our children to cherish and live by in life. We tend to undermine the role our environment plays in our childhood into making us into stable human beings. We may not always be able to provide the ideal of being perfect parents, of having their grandparents tell them stories, with a supportive extended family, a playful pet, of eating together, of providing good literature and music… But we can at least strive to save them from the ugliness of a volatile environment and worse still of imposing our fears and transferring our insecurities onto them.
Our past can either make us or break us. As we move ahead in life, what helps us the most to cope with our present, which in turn determines our future, is the strength we draw from our past memories.
By giving us life of affirming values, our past moulds us into being a believer in life, in humanity, in goodness. We become ‘vishwamitra’ (friends of the world) and the same past can ruin us through life negating values of acrimony and violence and turn us into ‘vishwashatru’ (foe of the world).
Let us as adults take the responsibility of sowing good memories for the tender saplings as they make a place for themselves under the sun and amidst the woods.