Last week a man walked by me in the park both arms full, one with his baby, the other with his diaper bag. The glimpse I caught of his profile and posture—that addled yet jolly strut of new fatherhood—took me back to a time not so long ago. It was a wistful realization: that I’d never experience that exact type of moment again.
It’s like those “remember when” conversations we so often have with family, friends, and co-workers. We recollect specific times and places that have been lost to history, yet have been etched into the memories of a certain few. Remember that dinner in Paris? When we played that joke on our sister? When we won the state championship?
The new age discourse reminds us the importance of living in the moment. It’s true that a good way to prevent suffering means letting go of the glory of the past and having no expectation of the future. (Try it: it is amazingly difficult but so relieving) However, past experiences nourish our hearts and inform our minds. They serve as guideposts in our longer memory of what to do or not do again.
The trick to loving our memories and not fetishizing them is to better program our time machine to bring us back to the present with ease, and not with longing. We can love our memories all day and night, let’s just not get stuck there, lest think we have to make everything great again.