By Arthur H. Gunther III
We all have windows on the past, even those who are not nostalgic. Suddenly someone’s face from decades ago appears clear as a bell, and you are there in that long-ago moment; you walk past an old garage on a warmish day, and the wood/oil smell is from your grandfather’s time, once shared; you hear the crickets and remember when you did so trying to fall asleep as a child.
It is on purpose, opening any such window or at least its possibility, for we do not live by the present alone, trudging happily or maybe not so much, or by living in the future, always focusing on what’s around the corner. The past is instructive, it is foundation, even if there are moments that you cannot dwell upon without pain or regret, which is pain anyway. If grief also means love, then the past equals growth, or at the very least, survival.
Long before psychoanalysis, the mind offered its own instructive, even healing moments, in part by opening a window on the past.
And it need not be your own window. You can research your grandmother’s upbringing, or look at how your ethnic puzzle was put together. Or study your country’s DNA, its origins. All history is opening windows.
Moving forward in life, whether it’s merely to exist or to soar in feelings and accomplishment, also means leaving those windows open a bit, so that the informational and emotional synapses, once electrified, can be crossed more quickly when need be. It is like learning to walk, then walking.
It is said that no person is an island, even a hermit. There is human bridging to others, even if deep water seemingly makes that impassable. But impossibility never is, since a window or two, or many, can be opened.