You have friends and their lives intertwine with yours. They are part of your world and you imagine they always will be. But then the time comes for your paths to diverge. You promise to keep in touch. “We’ll see one another often.”
Somehow you lose contact and in the throes of a busy life you hardly notice. From time to time you remember the past, chuckling over the jokes and growing dewy-eyed about friendship. Remember Joe? He was my special friend. What a sense of humour; he was always smiling. And he was so kind.
One day, thinking more seriously about the past than usual, you wonder what Joe is doing now. He must be out there somewhere. Does he ever think about the past and remember our times together? Would it be possible to find him? After all, we have this Internet thingy now.
You search and after a while a name pops up. Could this be Joe? It sounds like him. The dates are right. Yes, it must be him. You send off the email and wait nervously for a response.
At last the reply arrives. It’s Joe all right. “Sorry not to reply sooner but we have been busy of late.” Joe remembers you, of course, but as he tells it, you were one of the gang, a face in the crowd, rather than a close friend. His story differs from yours though there are points in common.
After a successful career, Joe has become complacent and a little unctuous. “If ever you are up this way you must come and visit us.” You reply in the same terms but you know you never will.
The excitement of finding Joe slowly dries up, leaving a husk of nostalgia behind. The Joe you knew is still there in the depths of your memory – he gives you a cheerful wave – and it is hard to recognize him in the new Joe.
When I was young, the old folk used to say “Never go back.” With the wisdom of my youthful ignorance I thought this silly. Why not go back? It’s fun and friends are always friends. As time passes I see that the old folk were right. The past is another world and we cannot travel there. We could not live there even if we could access it.
Our dwelling is in the present as it hurries endlessly into the future. There is no harm in looking back sometimes and enjoying the memory of happy times and good friends but the present is where we live. It is the garden whose fruits we harvest day by day.
The past is a graveyard and our memories the flowers on the graves.