Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

03 February, 2010

THERE'S NO TODAY WITHOUT YESTERDAY

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I have just spent the better part of the past 96 hours thinking about little other than my last post and the creation of a new bog site, The Kewley Story.  It is only a yarn about hockey, nothing earth-shattering, but nonetheless a little-known, small slice of Canadian sports history.

The Kewley Story is a personal recollection of people and events, all in the past; and it has required extensive research along with digging deep into my memory bank and going back to the drawing board countless times as my mind released long forgotten, singularly trivial, tidbits that collectively made up the whole of the story.  In the end it was a satisfying experience but, truthfully, it exhausted me.  A small price to pay I guess...Kind of the story of my life!

The whole exercise has led me to the rational conclusion that by-and-large the only people interested in the past are those who have lived it.  Nevertheless, as a memoirist, I soldier on because I am compelled to do so, ever hopeful that there are enough of us left who can enjoy nostalgic journeys and enough of the current generation who are interested in learning from the past.  The selfish payoff for me sometimes is that my efforts are not too late to give credit where credit is due and that in some small way I have brought the past back to life for someone.  Maybe even filled a gap or two, along the way.

Out of necessity, the past should be documented with responsibility and understanding and never for self-engrandment.

In order to do justice to some of my writing I find myself listening to (believe it or not) those who have gone before, trying to understand them; assessing documents and letters, hearing music of bygone days, reading news reports past and present; staring time and again at photographs to find details and specificity that will bring life to my humble efforts.  There are roadblocks and dead-ends in researching the past but every once in a while there are breakthroughs that are equivalent to striking gold.

When you are an odd sort nostalgia buff like me, however, there is very definitely a downside to living in the past as frequently as I do.  It can consume you at the expense of the present and you have to know when to draw a line, when to realize that you really do have other things to do by means of facilitating the present.  You have to be careful.  A healthy dose of reality goes a long way.

"The past is a foreign country.  They do things differently there," wrote novelist L. P. Hartley.  History leaves a lot of questions and gaps.  It is silent where you need words and information.  If only the dead could speak...If only people had the foresight to leave better records.  Even our own memories play tricks on us and are full of flaws causing us no end of frustration.

In the end, people are certain to critique, complain, relate and praise the work of a memoirist.  But if we have done our best to be honest and accurate about the past, we are able to sleep at night and to live with ourselves satisfied that we have filled a strange need within us.

For the most part, I have stayed away from futuristic prose because of a belief that I am not sufficiently enlightened.  Not long ago I deemed it wise to leave writing about the future to those who have a future.  But, in retrospect, writing about the future does not have much to do with informed predictions or prophecy.  It has more to do with questioning both the past and the present.  So I conclude that there is a very fine line between the work of a memoirist and that of a futurist.  We come from different ends of the spectrum and meet somewhere in the middle.

And, something else:  The present is not worth much without the past! 

That's why we should try to blend the two as much as possible as we head into the future.

1 comment:

Michael Langlois said...

Dick, this is such an enjoyable site. Relaxing to read through, thoughtful. Remembering - and honouring- the past while living in the moment takes some "balancing", indeed. I look forward to following your thoughts. Michael Langlois