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Valuing the past

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A FRIEND of mine had a problem; she was unhappy, even depressed. I reminded her of something particularly pleasant that had occurred in her life not long before. She shrugged it off almost angrily. ``That's gone,'' she said. ``What good is it now? I'm only interested in what is going on right now-- and what's going on right now is terrible.'' But it isn't ``gone,'' I thought. Of course, in one sense she was right. We can't escape from present difficulties by retreating into a pleasant past. Escapism is never the answer. On the other hand, many seem not to know how to value the past, how to enjoy it in the present. As Whittier expressed it: That all of good the past hath had Remains to make our own time


To see that the past can be appreciated in the present, without our dwelling selfishly on bygone years or daydreaming about them, is a step toward valuing the past correctly. For indeed the good associated with the past can be seen to be inseparable from our present consciousness of things. Good is permanent, because its source is God.

Eternity knows only now, but to the human sense of things, life is made up of past, present, and future. Our need is to cultivate, through prayer and purification of thought, more of that spiritual sense of things which discerns the permanency of good. We can't do that if we're living in the past, or fearing the future, or indulging in wishful thinking that the future will, in some magic way, be better than the present.

The Bible says, ``That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.''2 Doesn't this indicate that with God there is no time; that the divine Mind is conscious only of eternity? We can become conscious of eternal good now, through prayer, and begin to see that the good of what we call our past can't, in the truest sense, be lost.


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