What is it that is to be done with our pasts?

I have tried everything- distancing myself from my past- its people, emotions, and stories, attaching myself to my past- allowing my self and identity to be defined and molded by it, drowning myself in it- effectively stagnating in living at all, learning from it, constantly battling it, making peace, healing wounds, diggin’ them back up, restructuring it, glorifying it, and seeing it for it was and what it has done to my thinking.

What’s striking is that as children, babies, we seem to be at the mercy of our natal astrological chart, the elements, and the people that happen to us. If you subscribe to such beliefs, you are passed on karmic legacies. Our physical frailty and the blank slates of our psyche make us processing machines, that learn without discretion. We guzzle up fractions of reality fed to us, and piece together a sense of the world- first imagining ourselves to be at the center of it, much like the primitive opinion of the Earth being the focal point of the universe, later being confronted by the initially harsh reality of being a drop in an ocean of similars.

Yet, we find our voice. We convince ourselves that our opinions and contributions matter, and that we are worthy of love and good fortune. Only to be slammed with absurdist philosophies and existential crises: messages that tell us that we cannot allow ourselves to feel so self-centered, so as to be guaranteed returns for our good deeds. While some studies tell us that relationships and meaningful connections are that which give us the sturdy platform to branch out from, others opine that we are purposeless, sentient beings floating around the cosmos, finding our way into the oblivion- all in the guise of scientific inquiry and judgment, religious authority, intelligence, charisma, political clout, and such other halos.

My point is, what is to be done with our pasts? If it has been uncommonly traumatic, is it peculiar to display an uncommonly detached demeanor with respect to it- as did this Quint, who appeared to the interviewer as ‘merely the representative of her former self, the spokeswoman for her childhood, not the child itself, grown up’. Are we just hamsters in this world of narratives, reacting with each other, some of us catalysts, possibly acidic or otherwise, throwing ourselves into each other, diluting, dissolving, losing ourselves to form larger stories- epics! – of cultures, communities, and systems, that God knows will lead our souls, spirits, intellects, and physical selves where?

How many times will we have fresh starts– and of how many different kinds, what is the optimum count for rewriting our selves, rewiring our brains, and teaching our hearts to trace connections, form patterns, and build relationships?

Don’t read too much philosophy they told me: you will grapple with all sorts of meaningless, dead-end questions. Study science instead, or a hardy subject like finance. If you must explore philosophy, begin with objectivism. And yet, when you are dealt with lemonades- be it the global financial crisis or a period of clinical depression, all of these structures crumble like a pack of cards in your head. If you stick on to it strongly enough, hoping to make it work, reinvent the rules and assert your way through circumstances, you are being ego-driven, and not nearly as flexible enough as the Zen Buddhists propose you ought to be.

How should a person be– not depressed, satisfied, surrounded by people, alive? How much of it is defined by their past, and in what way? How do you feel your way around through the future? Is narrativism a universal truth at all? Where is the promised teacher who will answer these questions, and the leader who will keep his/her word? I have no answers but this display of curmedgeonry.


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