All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
This summer I gazed upon a stream I played in as a boy and a teen. It’s the stream which flows through the heart of Montreat, NC forming Lake Susan and rolling on to Black Mountain. Presbyterians will know about this. As old men are wont, old memories flooded past on that mountain stream, but not as you might think. I did not muse on the flow of my life through the years; rather, I enjoyed a specific memory of hiking up and down through the middle of the stream balancing from rock to rock. That was a precarious little adventure, which I wish I could still perform without risking a fall and a broken hip. For a moment I felt the kid in me coming back.
As we get older, we spend a lot of time with one foot in the past and one foot in the future, as we make our shaky way forward. It’s like walking up the middle of a stream, without pausing to see exactly where we are at the moment. That one foot in the past, where we have been, is firmly planted on a large, dry rock. Perhaps too firmly planted. It’s hard to push away that safety, what we have known and have come to trust. Perhaps trusting now, a little too much. That other forward foot into the future tests a wet, maybe mossy rock or several wiggly rocks. There’s not much trust in that future. A fall is beginning to seem inevitable, not only of oneself but also of everything else all around. In those moments, poised between the past and the future, we tend to fret and grunt and complain completely missing the beauty of the stream all around us.
First, I want to make a case for pausing, which is to say living in the present. I make the case for older folk, which is probably most of this readership. We do not have any control over the past, neither to drag it into the present nor project it into the future. We might lie about or exaggerate the past hoping our juniors might fall for it and believe us, but that’s another somewhat political issue. We cannot bring it back, but we can truthfully warn about passed mistakes, as long as we own our culpability in them, but that’s unlikely and no one is listening anyway. Likewise, we do not have much control over the future, unless perhaps we are among our aged political leaders well into their two-minute warnings. For most of us, the future just makes us feel tired or angry or cynical or afraid or all of the above. This is a matter of can’t go back and reluctant to go forward. So, what’s so bad about right now? Right now, pausing mid-stream, has infinitely more possibilities than having one foot in the past and the other foot in the future. Furthermore, the pause that refreshes is less likely to produce regret or fear.
Second, I want to make a case for some truly valuable reflections we might make while living in the present. It is a good thing to decide here and now to let go of remorse and regret over the past. Some of us have more of that than others do. For those who have less, it is a good thing to let go of our sentimentalities and unrealistic imaginations about what use to be. Nothing mars pleasure in the present more than regrets or sentimentality about the past. Also, it is a good thing to direct our attentions away from fear and loathing about the future. That next step will come soon enough, but not right now. Again, this is more for the older ones among us and not as much for the populations under fifty, who have longer futures to contend with. If you do not absolutely need risking that next step to a wet mossy rock, fix your feet a bit. Be still and look around. And don’t let anybody tell you where you ought to be.
That was a most excellent moment streamside at Montreat. As you see, I am carrying it into my present, whittling it into something good for right now in my life.