December 21, 2013, by Stephen Mumford


It might be best not to dwell upon the past. For all our efforts we cannot change it. Why waste our considerations on its reliving? Some of the most thrusting and dynamic are precisely those who focus on the future, formulating their ambitions and strategy. For most of the year I aim for that.

The winter holiday season is the one time of year I take a different view, however. I have started to take a little rest each Christmas and look back over the previous 12 month. Like anyone else, I have my share of triumphs and tragedies, good luck and bad luck, things I’ve done well and things I’ve done less so. Some years there are departed friends and family to remember. There are sometimes new books published or grants won. Everyone will have had achievements, great or small, and now is the time to celebrate them.

Our personal histories concern the past, which is important enough in itself. But those histories also inform our present and future. To an extent we are made by the decisions we have taken and the events in which we have played a part. But the point of dwelling on the past is that we can then make better decisions based on what we have learnt. To get to that place, we have to properly understand our life’s events. One cannot change the past. But one can change how one thinks about the past. For that, we all need our regular retrospective.

The world is full of pain and misery and no one knows whether they will have someone to hold at the journey’s end. The good times have to be enjoyed to counterbalance the horror. In a hectic life, there is little time to fully savour them so an annual end of year pause is the perfect opportunity. I am hoping we can all, when we look back, recall the good times more than the bad.


Posted in ExistentialismHistoryPhilosophy