I sometimes wonder whether it is worth adding to the vast amount of material written – especially when so much of it ends up in the second hand bookshop (if you are lucky) or the scrap heap waiting to be pulped. Isn’t it extraordinary to think of the human struggle and engagement with life and how we try and express our need for meaning and purpose?
On my library desk here are books about a dozen people who have written memoirs – and not all of them important or powerful. There are many common strands and themes emerging from the narratives.
One of them is the What if question. This is closely associated with the If only I hadn’t done that feeling. Are they familiar to you? Few of us escape those niggles that make us wonder what life might have been like….. if. Too much of our living can be shaped by regret and sometimes there are those who are paralysed by it. Unable to free themselves from the past and its haunting memories regret can dominate the horizon of what becomes possible.
Yet, without regret, how would any of us learn or have a ego that is healthy in its awareness of human fragility? In this area we need to be gentle with ourselves and others. And we need to learn to laugh more at the ridiculous things we both say and do.
Too much introspection (especially when done alone) isn’t healthy but we do need to try and nurture honest judgements about the partiality and shadows present in all of our lives. We are all incomplete as human beings – searching and hoping and grasping for wholeness and peace. That is a mysterious part of of condition and a very creative one. It has inspired some of the most beautiful art, music and story.
Not many of us will make great writers or great anything at that! When we leave this earth we will leave our mark – for sure. What kind of mark is up to us. What we do with our regrets will certainly be part of our human legacy of the life remembered and celebrated in the hearts of those who love us.
A friend and scholar shared this – from the Babylonian Talmud in Bereshit (commentary on Genesis) – it states that there are three things that shorten a man’s life
- Being given a Torah scroll (the Law) and refusing to read it.
- Being given a cup of blessing and not offering thanks.
- Taking on airs of authority.
Wise advice. Here is an open book – your memoirs – what will you write of your life?