The Past...

On this day 47 years ago Woodstock began. This event helped shape American culture for a variety of reasons not the least of which was amazing live music by iconic artists. The memory (or loss of memory for some!) of Woodstock lives in actuality and lore. In fact, the event didn’t take place at Woodstock but a farm some miles from the town. Despite the historical inaccuracies, the idea of what Woodstock was remains pivotal for many.

The memory or idea is so powerful that to celebrate the 25-year anniversary, promoters held another ‘Woodstock” music festival. On the heels of the success of 1994, another was held in 1999. This event however, was marred by violence, looting and unrest. Our memory of an event or moment is so profound we long to experience it or something similar again.

Truth be told, the 1969 Woodstock can never happen again. Cultural, political and economic realities combined to help create what occurred on that farm over those three days for good or bad. Those cultural, political and economic realities will never exist again in the same way. You can’t recreate an event or memory. Once it has occurred, it is over.

The problem is we want it again.

This is true for concerts we attended, moments we have shared with those we care for, or things we hold dear in our memories. This is how sequels come about. Woodstock I, II and III. Jaws I, II III (were there more?). Rocky…do I need to say anything about Rocky? How about Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite?  

My point is we are obsessed with the past. We will go through a great deal to repeat, recreate or emulate experiences we have already had. The problem is, we can’t recreate the past. That is the beauty of the moment. It simply is to be enjoyed for what it is, a place in time and space.

I am as guilty of this as anyone. I want what I once had in that moment or even as my mind has made it. Perhaps this is behind the mid-life crisis many experience or maybe what is behind the talk of the ‘good old days.’ One thing is clear.  Our efforts to recreate or somehow live in the past come at the expense of the present. We become unable or unwilling to live where we are. We lose sight of the fact that something even better may be happening now or could happen any moment.

Maybe this is because we are afraid things are slipping away or that nothing in the future could ever be as great as we once had it. I really don’t know the reason behind much of the longing people experience. I do know that recognizing our cultural propensity to rehash something has caused me pause. Because I have seen this play out in my own life I am making a change.

I am determined to be present. I am determined to look hopefully to the future for what might come.

This morning as I dropped my kids off from school my daughter prayed for our day. Her prayer struck me deeply. Despite not wanting to go to school she prayed that we would look for what God had for us this day. I was moved to tears by that prayer. Not because my daughter said it (although that was cool), but because I recognized how much I need to live in that idea.

God has something for me today. If I am busy trying to recreate ‘Woodstock’ I will never see what He has right in front of me. I am happy I was present in that moment! It will never happen again and it was precious. Instead of acting like Uncle Rico, I can be grateful to God and trust Him for many of these memories and moments in the future and maybe you can too.

© Bob Fabey