There Is No Going Back

January 21, 1999 by Timothy W. Shire

Each night as we drift through what we call "sleep" our experiences of that past day are systematically filed away and referenced much like a comprehensive index. Unlike text in a book or publication, our system files things away with sounds, smells and emotions, all of the essential elements that went into those experiences are sorted out and placed in memory in such a way that if they are not necessarily recoverable, the experience as a whole, is some how transforming what we are and what we are becoming

Nostalgia is defined simply as "a wistful yearning for something past or irrecoverable". It seems that much of our lives depends upon our memory of what we experienced as "good" and a way of recapturing the essence of that experience in future activities. As a sort of gypsy for all of my half century of life, moving from community to community a flavour, a scent, a sound can trigger the memory of one of the places that I have lived and had very good times. The sad recognition of reality is that indeed "There Is No Going Back." Those good moments live on in our memory and provide us with the fuel to face each day but they are just that, memories.

It is futile to try to return to some place and think that it somehow played a part in what we remember positively, for indeed, the place, though a part of the experience was only that, a part.

Michael Townsend sent me this advertisement he clipped from a local paper advertising a special event for people from Saskatchewan to come together and revel in their memories of their home province. It is an interesting idea because if you think about the paragraph above and realise that context is more then just a place, but involves circumstance, emotions and the spirit of the people involved, then this "Hoe Down" takes on some new meaning.

In the winter of 1955 - 56 our family lived in a tiny community where we were snowed in and cut off from the world from November until May. We received mail by train and during that year, electrical power was installed in the hamlet with three street lights being erected to everyone's amazement. With electricity in our house my dad bought a refrigerator and brought it in on a push car behind the "jigger". I attended a one room school, my little sister was born, we played cards endlessly and it was one of the best years of my life.

Was it the isolation, the people, the little place, the circumstances, our resourcefulness, the age I was, the time it was in the never ending change of society, or was it, all of those things? What we consider ourselves to be is a transient thing, though we see ourselves in our minds eye as an entity, we really are only a collection of experiences housed in a physical body. Therefore, until our lives end, we are constantly making additions and changes to what we are, we are in every way, a work in progress. Never finished, never definable, just ambling along trying to make sense of those experiences so that we can make sense of who we are and the far more difficult question, why we are.