Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hammocks and Springboards


I want to make the most of every day. And, like most people, I’ve discovered that one of the things I must do is to keep the past safely in the past lest it affect the present. We know this, don’t we? It means to resolve past guilt, past failures and mistakes so that we can be truly present now.

But that’s not all. What about past successes? What about satisfying achievements and those shining moments of glory? They may be nice to think about, but if I can’t get past them I may still get myself stuck in the past, only in this case, I’m stuck in reliving yesterday. 

I once attended a funeral of a man who unexpectedly died in his 40’s. Friends and family spoke about him. They applauded his athleticism in high school, where he starred on the school football team. They spoke of school records he set. They talked about him with true admiration and even a sense of awe. They spoke about how he could pull his team from the jaws of defeat and win games over and over. 

Yet I noticed that practically nothing was said about his adult life. Nobody spoke about his character or his values or anything they appreciated about him after high school. No one mentioned his work or his hobbies. I had the impression that he stopped really living once he could no longer compete in football. Then he quietly faded into the background. It was as if he felt he could never match the glory days of his youth and, after a couple of decades, he simply went away.

Ivern Ball has said, “The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.” The fact is, to repeatedly relive our finest achievements in our memories is seductive, but that can hold us back as much as reliving our failures.

I once heard a story about the actor Clark Gable. A friend paid Gable a visit one afternoon at the actor’s home. She brought along her small son, who amused himself by playing with toy cars on the floor. He pretended he was racing those cars around a great track, which in reality was an imaginary circle around a golden statuette. The small statue the boy played with was actually the Oscar Clark Gable won for his performance in the 1934 movie It Happened One Night.

When his mother told him the time had come to leave, the little boy asked the actor, “Can I have this?” pointing to the Oscar.

“Sure,” he smiled. “It’s yours.”

The horrified mother objected. “Put that back immediately!” The child did.

Gable argued, “Having the Oscar around doesn’t mean anything to me; earning it does.” I wonder if the actor knew that past success could be a comfortable hammock upon which he may be tempted to rest and felt no need to keep a memento of his past glory.

Biblical wisdom says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago.” You may have learned to let go of past failures and mistakes in order to free the present. But can you loosen your grip on past successes and achievements also? Will your past be a comfortable place to rest or a springboard to something new?

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past,” said Thomas Jefferson. I agree. After all, the future, not the past, is where I intend to live the rest of my life.

-- Steve Goodier


Image: flickr.com/Rameez Sadikot


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