Resignation Is Not As Bad As It's Sometimes Made Out To Be.
Dear Self in the Past,
I haven't been writing to you for two reasons.
First of all, you're incredibly naive.
I know that when you write these letters to me, you're feeling particularly enlightened. Like you've just Learned A Lesson. and you're so excited to share your life lesson with me to assure us both that you Won't Make That Mistake Again.
Dear Self in the Past - You Will.
You always make mistakes again.
Over and over and over.
And I'll admit, my first inclination when I get these little letters from you? Is to be annoyed by your short sightedness, embarrassed by your optimism, ashamed of your enthusiasm and frustrated by your ambition.
But after I think back to where you were and what you were thinking and what had just happened, and what you had to overcome, I am, ultimately filled with a kind of compassion and tenderness for you and your puppy-like enthusiasm.
I get that we had to overcome a lot.
I get it, that if we could overcome a lot then, that you might think that our capacity for accomplishment and survival and achievement in the future might grow.
I certainly understand why you would have wanted to? Who wouldn't like to imagine that the arc of progress is the storyline of their own lives? Who doesn't want to believe that the uphill struggle is longer and more definitive than the downhill slide?
The thing is, self in the past, I know everything you knew? And more.
And its the "more" part that's the kicker.
See from my point of view? Life isn't like the Great Pyramid of Freytag's Literary Form -- where the upward climb contains the majority of the story and then a quick descent in the third act resolves things neatly with not much of a slide.
From my point of view, life's journey is more like a series of undulating waves, which, when read scrolling across an oscilloscope, seem remarkably uniform and unremarkable in their ups and downs, but (remarkably) when heard with the human ear? Sound utterly even and plain: no ups, no downs, just an ongoing sound.
And life is like the endless mountains: ups and downs - from the point of view of the traveller, over and over and over the same discouragements, the same hopes, the same disappointments, the same elations.
But when heard from the slightest distance? (Let's say: someone else's point of view, for instance...) Our lives are just normal. Just static. Nothing special. Just....life.
So, self in the past? I feel grateful for your heroic ambition much like a father appreciates the crude drawing of his five year old child.
It's a nice bit of evidence that what happened to you (to us) -- really happened.
And it's a nice reminder that there were moments that seemed like a real Swell In The Score of our collective life.
And maybe it's helpful to me in just the opposite way that you intended: to remember that I will hear the Swell again, but this time, I won't mistake it for an epic uptick in fate this time. I won't mistake my heartbeat for the Drum of Inevitability That Accompanies The Hero's March Toward Destiny.
So thank you. No really. I mean it. (Thanks, but no thanks. Really. I mean that too).
Oh and the second reason! Right?
I don't write you because you never get my letters. That's one of the worst parts of being human really. We can stare at the past endlessly, but we're constrained to nostalgia and regret. We can never stare at the past with a purpose or an ambition. We can only accept it or reject it.
I can't send you letters, because you can't get them.
I know you're going to write me back and say more. And I don't begrudge you those moments, but really? Maybe you could read this letter before you write?
(It won't really be you reading it though, remember that. Only Self in the Future can read it, but that might be helpful too.)
Self in The Future