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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Even the "Born Again" Never Outrun Their Past

You can forget about your past, but you can never outrun it. The tentacles of the forgotten truth still clutch your present life despite your best efforts to ignore their presence. "Make a new start" and "Seize the day" and "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change" are idioms to live by only in the sense that you acknowledge the history of your thoughts and actions. I am convinced people never forget you, especially when you misbehave. That's part of the future too: I have never learned how to master my good behavior.

Your resume doesn't change because you choose to type a new version that cloaks or omits old mistakes and old problems best forgotten. Ask a felon who dutifully serves his time after committing a crime he deeply regrets about how his past is indelible. Find out why he is unable to secure decent, life-sustaining employment after serving retribution. Discover the brand of "justice" that forever prevents him from again being accepted as a trusted member of society. Society distrusts sinners, even those who repent.

Even being "born again" in a spiritual sense does not satisfy the temporal masses. Recall, grudge, vendetta, visions of karma -- all play a part in keeping the past relevant to those who know your history. Even while exercising new muscles of faith and initiative, you will never outdistance stigmas that others have firmly pressed into their minds as their "impression" of you. As human beings, so many lack the ability to "forgive and forget." Enjoying the celebration of fault has become a national pastime.

So, to me, life means being comfortable with my vision of myself and the vision of me others choose to remember. It might be great to be totally happy with myself, but my vision of the future includes change, uncertainty, and a continuation of inevitable mistakes. I am a realist.

I am satisfied with myself, but I am not exultant of my achievement because I own plenty of regrets and misfires. Since I can do nothing to correct my past and very little to change the impression of others, I carry on despite my worst critics. If I let them destroy my singular spirit, I will become unfit to add any aggressive benefit. On offense, I would love to bat .300 in the game of life, and that means making enough good contact to reach first base every 3 of 10 times I climb into the box.

Some people realize they cannot outrun their past and decide to live by playing nothing but defense. I understand this philosophy and respect it to a certain degree because I think you must fend off attacks that may cause you serious injury. Yet, in order to score an advancement or two, you must produce some offense. And, God knows, some people think I am overtly offensive in views and in actions. I am satisfied that they disagree with the way I play ball. Still, in my contentment, I try to remain cognizant of self-improvement.

I find pride to be largely detrimental. You surely know the cycle. Those with good ethics may be prideful, but still experience complications in life, so they enter a conflict, fall to sin, evaluate their condition, and finally find greater insight into reasons for their actions. In this manner even good outcomes from your past can linger and push an unchecked ego into artificial self-love. Falling in love with limited progress often leads to permanent decay.

I believe your past has definite uncontrollable influences on your present. You may deny this; however, choosing to forget about the checkered parts of your past and accepting that others will never forget them are both necessary to find contentment. And, for those who believe they have reached a holy state of existence in which they are disconnected to past actions, I ask, "Why would you not accept your imperfect state as a human being?" Woe to the judges with concrete ideas.

Your last breath may release you from this life, but earthy good intentions and new beginnings are, at the minimum, marginally dependent upon everything you have done. 

I often think of the words of Omar Khayyam, a philosopher from long ago, who wrote: "The moving finger writes, and having written moves on. Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it." Your life is recorded and preserved in the book of time. You cannot change that record with wisdom or with regret. You must accept that anyone can go to the library of your past at will and judge your character with their particular perspectives. And, believe me, they will do this.

In the end, I hope you don't assume I deny my past. I acknowledge the whole enchilada. Only a fool would judge it as exemplary. That said, I live with it now by assuming some value in my limited mindset, and I try to improve upon some part of my understanding daily. Sometimes, I strike out and head back to the bench. About 20%-30% of the time I manage to get on base and keep hopes of a small victory alive. And, I do believe life is not so much about winning, but more about maintaining the struggle to reach home plate. 

And, Jesus, right now forgive me for so many poor, hackneyed metaphors I employed to illustrate my simple intentions. Maybe I can put these in the past.

The moving finger writes, and having written moves on. Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it.

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