The past isn’t dead:
One line in the song “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots bugs the shit out of me. “Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days” — don’t they know a very fundamental fact?
WE’RE STILL IN DAYS. Your experience before was NOT better. The you of now wants to go back to the days before and properly appreciate them. But you weren’t supposed to. Make the most of now.
There’s threads of relevancy and cause/effect that connect reasons why things happen. Unseen variables that change the state of things. One day you’re smiling happily, the next your entire world is upended. If anything that happens in the present ever surprises you, it’s because that very thing’s expiration was long coming. But these variables remain unseen. You, in your blindness, couldn’t have seen them at the time.
This is why regret is just as irrelevant as missing the good old days – how could you, in the body you’re in now, have possibly appreciated things you didn’t realize were about to expire? Don’t say the past was better — it wasn’t. You were just worse, so you couldn’t see correctly.
Something feels off when you begin to miss something that hasn’t left you yet. But that’s only because there should always be this hyperawareness that everything in this very moment you’re experiencing has a lifespan. Me walking down this hall. Me eating this burrito. Me having this conversation. Me sitting in this class. Me living in this house. Me playing the role of friend in this friendship — all of these things are going to expire at some point and even as I type these words, the moment I’m living in in which this blog post is incomplete is about to end in 70…69…68…67 seconds.
The past seemed better because reality wasn’t showing all of its cards. People were holding poker faces. But that’s not the end all be all. Things always change. Things that appeared irrelevant now in the present, may regain relevancy. In fact, they probably will. If the past, present and future are all connected, saying that something is irrelevant — dismissing the past — is just as bad as regretting it or romanticizing it.
The truth is, the past isn’t dead. In fact, it isn’t even past. William Faulkner wrote this once, and he wants “requiem for a nun” – but I want requiem for the idea that the past is irrelevant. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has shaped the future.
Romanticizing the past is delusion. But it is not defined as optimism. All of the past lives in the now. All of the now leads to the future. Expirations are only segments of an ongoing. They’re not a breaking off of complete networks of patterns.
The idea that reality is a fluid stream of mixed events but common themes isn’t scary. Reality always validates those who try to be wise and do things. Not the “correct” things or the “right” things. Just things. Anything, to figure out what threads were meant to be broken off and what threads were meant to continue. Really, it’s what we can’t see that makes us scared right now. Make us die a little. Or, “die” is the wrong word — maybe all we do is change.
Don’t be terrified. Unravel the mystery. The past wasn’t a different entity than now. It’s really the same threaded reality we’ve always had — it just ceases to exist as time goes on. It was an illusion, a notion of pre-dying, a reality that’s expired but still leaves its mark. I don’t dwell on, or have ever wished, that it were the “good old days.” That’s a simplification. I just tend to acknowledge those were the old days. I actively do that. Don’t mistake it as anything else. Now is good. Before was bad.
But the future is even better. Now can always elevate, based on what was before. Right now is simply the cocoon of the threads that haven’t expired, the ones you intuitively feel like are still relevant. We’re waiting on the caterpillar of the past to stop procrastinating on the destiny — the rightful future to be a butterfly.
If something in the past appeared better than what you’re dealing with now, know that thread may be not all the way broken. It still exists here. And it could still exist in the future too. Can it exist more fully too? Who knows.
If I could go back to a simpler time, sometimes I would. It’s much easier, isn’t it? Being real as you realize you are real gets harder. But is it better? Maybe not.
Whatever my relation to the past is, I certainly don’t live in it. Because if I lived in it, I wouldn’t be missing it. It would not be something to be missed. I am actively hanging onto what is relevant.
What I always miss is ignorant bliss. When things weren’t on my mind. But sorry, that’s the only thing you can move on from and consistently leave behind. Ignorance.
Time traveling occupies my days sometimes, but as a mere thought, passing in the dark. When I look back it feels like a day I’ve wasted. Because why be sad? The reality is, every day I live is still technically the past. The past is still here.