Everyone misses the 90s, right? It was a simpler time for all of us. Remember singing along to the Spice Girls (I still can’t believe what ‘Two Become One’ was really about), watching Pokemon, playing with yo-yo’s, wearing your Nike ‘Just do it’ bag on the first day of Year 7, watching Art Attack, Fun house and everything on Trouble TV; feeding your Tamagochi and breeding your slimy Alien Eggs and expecting offspring, WWF play fighting with your older brother, listening to your CD on a Walkman and deciding which power ranger you were going to be. Ah yes, can you say nostalgia?
Am I the only one who loves to take trips down memory lane? I think we all do it. Oftentimes we look back at recent years and reminisce over the good time. For you it may be a goal that you achieved, the peak of that relationship, or some other landmark, symbolic of the move towards the person you wanted to become. Maybe, like me, you tend to look back at a phase in your life where you began to find yourself: everything from your personal fashion, to the very meaning of life, finally begun to make sense. Sometimes, we look back to the periods in our lives where we could sit for hours with our Bibles open, studying every version of a scripture to understand God and his complexities, praying until our knees, throat and lips were dry.
There is nothing wrong with looking back (in theory) but its all fun and games until you realise that you preferred Walkman to iPods, you kind of hate your job, the meaning of life is not as straight forward as you thought and you don’t spend near as much time seeking God as you would used to. What I mean by this is that, when we realise that our present doesn’t look as great as the past felt, we can get into an unproductive and unhealthy space. When we begin to have an earnest desire to go back, not necessarily physically but maybe returning back to old friends, or behaviours trying recreate that feeling, we can start to resent the present and this may even have a negative impact on the future. In this way, looking back can do more harm than good. When nostalgia becomes synonymous with the dissatisfaction of where we are in life, it becomes a problem.
In Ecclesiastes, the straight-shooter, Solomon, reminds us that longing for the good old days is not wise.
‘Do not long for “the good old days”. This is not wise’
Firstly, Solomon puts things into perspective: he knew that each era comes with its peaks and its falls. Praising the good old days therefore becomes meaningless because the good old days came with its own difficulties. Or have you forgotten that bad that came with the good? Isn’t it interesting how the struggle of our past is conveniently minimised when we compare it to our present struggle? Sometimes the poor sound quality of an MP3 is better than the scratched CD that always skipped your favourite track. You know?
I also would go on to say that being hard on yourself about where you used to be as a student, Husband, Christian, friend, etc, is futile because you still possess the qualities that made you that person you once admired. Really, when you think about it, one of the the great things about reminiscing about your past is the you that you see. You lived those moments of your life and so all the wisdom, the insight, the learnt experiences, the desires, the self actualisation, the awareness, the knowledge of God and affinity for his presence…you already have. The worst thing you could do is reduce these gems, by glorifying a 1.0 version of yourself, when you are the 3.0 upgrade. Nothing can stop your present from being as great as your past -except you looking backwards instead of looking inwards and failing to utilise the tools you acquired from your lived experiences.
Finally, looking back at his life as a King who had the opportunity and resources to indulge in his wealth and the fruit of his work and wisdom, Solomon teaches about the futility and vanity of it all. He shares a profound and refreshing view of life but ultimately recognises the sovereignty and superiority of God. He points to a simpler life, lived in view of God (Eccl. 12:13-14). This made me think: a person that looks up to God has the best perspective of their life, with all its peaks and falls. When we look up we gain strength and inspiration to become better versions of ourselves that embrace the learning from each landmark in our lives. Looking back is no longer a reminder of what’s lost but a reminder of how far God has taken us. When it is all said and done, the key is to consider our lives in view of eternity, not longing for the past or longing for the future job, husband, or must have purchase of tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34) but daily choosing to live with a longing and urge to get up and not go back.