I don’t like to look at old photographs. Actually, I don’t like looking at new photographs either. Photographs remind me of people and places that no longer exist. A picture captures and freezes a split second in time, and that instant is gone. The person in the picture is no longer the same. The setting is no longer the same. It doesn’t matter if the picture is in a video or if it is a snapshot, that moment is forever lost, and there is a sadness in that.
I am generally not nostalgic. I have some pleasant memories, but many of them are scary or painful. I have been to funerals where a person will give me a weak smile and say something like, “Let’s just remember the good times.” That individual is apparently able to separate the wheat from the chaff in their mind. I don’t have that kind of filter in my memory. My recollections are all mixed up, good and bad, happy and sad. It is often easier for me to slam the door on the whole lot, rather than sift through them.
It is possible to learn from the past, but it is just as easy to become captive to it. I, like many others, have on occasion gotten stuck in a memory. Either I wanted to relive that event, or I wanted desperately to erase it. Sometimes, I lingered in the past simply to nurse a grudge. It is often a waste of time to commune with ghosts.
The future has some of the same attractions as the past. There can be joy or sadness in contemplating things yet to be, just as there is in pondering things that have come and gone. In both cases, the activity is often sterile.
Last week I participated in a podcast (I still don’t know why), and the moderator asked me a question near the end of our discussion. He wanted to know what I see myself doing in a year or two. I told him: “childcare.” seeing as I am a legal guardian of my toddler grandson. I then elaborated to say that I have no idea what I will be doing in a year. Nobody knows what they will be doing in a year, and it is foolish for me even to guess.
I have practiced Zen for a number of years. It’s not really a religion since it doesn’t have a theology. It’s mostly something a person does, as opposed to something that somebody believes. There are a few basic assumptions involved with Zen. I have taken some of those to heart.
One assumption is that all things must pass. Everything is transient. That is really kind of obvious, but a person tends to cling to anything that appears to be permanent. I know that I do that. The lesson is to let things go. That is difficult at times.
Another assumption is that the only thing that matters is now because that is the only thing that exists. The past is gone and unchangeable. The future is only a dream. This moment is literally all that there is in the universe, and as I write, this moment has already passed away.
It is actually easy for me to stay in the moment because I am usually so fucking busy caring for our grandson. Nothing keeps me in the here and now like little Asher. He is growing, learning, and changing every day, so he is a living example of the transient nature of things. Each morning I meet a new boy, though his name is always Asher.
Be here now.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
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