“Yesterday when I was young/
So many drinking songs were waiting to be sung… I teased at life as if it were a foolish game/
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame.”
– Yesterday When I Was Young by Charles Aznavour
Is it good to dwell on the past? Or, like the lyrics of the Powder Blues Band’s classic hit, ‘Doing It Right’, maybe I’m just “Doing it right/ on the wrong side of town”. My dad once said that nostalgia is a halfway house in which you love the past and the sweet things in it without actually committing yourself to the nonsense that life was better then.
Our past definitely has a mixed appeal: as in Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’, “All my troubles seemed so far away” – to which John Lennon retorted in ‘How Do You Sleep’ – “The only thing you done was yesterday/ And since you’re gone you’re just another day.” The past can seemingly be good or bad.
My dad died several years ago, but I just recently came across some written words of wisdom. In part, he wrote that hindsight is always 20/20… but that the only question that I should be concerned with is, “Did you accomplish your original objectives? Life goes on with or without you.” Dad was probably right of me…
“I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out/
I never stopped to think what life was all about…
And every conversation I can now recall/ Concerned itself with me and nothing else at all.”
– by Charles Aznavour
Life has gone on without my father and I still haven’t accomplished everything I wanted: consistency in my words and action. Ironically, the things I found lacking in him, I now find lacking in myself: it’s hard to “practice what you preach.”
“There are so many songs in me that won’t be sung/
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue.”
– by Charles Aznavour
Yet, although I haven’t grasped it yet, there’s no reason not to continue pursuing the upward call of life. Besides, no one ever won a gamble with their conscience. A person’s whole life is best caught up in one look: a smile, emanating from the sweet stirring of the soul… that spark that says I’m grateful I am alive.
As the lyrics to ‘Here’s to Life’ – exquisitely expressed by Shirley Horn – wisely observe:
“But there’s no yes in yesterday/
And who knows what tomorrow brings, or takes away/
As long as I’m still in the game, I want to play/ For laughs, for life, for love”
As hard as it is sometimes, all we really have is the present – handling that, as best we can, means everything else will pretty well take care of its self – now and forever.
In the end, can we really go back? Our precious memories will never be taken from us… or our future, if we want it.
“Here’s to life/ Here’s to love/ And here’s to you”