The Tapestry of Life
by Jeremy Edwards, OBOD Druid
Do not dwell in the past.
Do not dream of the future.
Concentrate the mind on the present moment.
I believe Buddha had a point when speaking about our mindset. We cannot change the past, so dwelling on our mistakes or failures can only lead to heartache and needless suffering. What if you could change the past? What if you were granted the ability to return to a moment in your life or a moment in the course of human events and change one thing? What would it be? The people who answer “nothing” would be the most content and have the most inner-peace.
To answer this question for yourself, you first have to understand what “life” is. Life is a series of ups and downs; lows and highs; pitfalls and promise. Life is more than our fleeting existence on this world. Our life and our choices are interwoven into a universal tapestry containing threads of every else’s lives. Your actions and your words have a profound impact upon the lives of those around you and, by extension, the lives of everyone around them. Life is as a pebble tossed into a lake; the ripple effect can only extend outward, but let us concentrate on the analogy of the tapestry.
Every tapestry is unique because tapestries are made out of individual threads. Each person’s life makes up a tapestry containing the threads of their life. These threads are the actions and consequences that occur from the most mundane to the most profound. For instance, you could choose to wake up at 6:30 in the morning and die in a car accident, but by waking up at 6:31, you would avoid the accident completely. There is a saying that “no man is an island” and with that thought in mind, no tapestry is a universe unto itself. When we interact with others, threads from our own tapestry interweave with threads from another person’s tapestry, connecting our lives.
Going back to the question, then, if you had the ability to return to a point in time in either your life or the life of someone else, would you make any changes or would you allow events to unfold as before. Once, I would have answered this question with a resounding “YES”. There are many things I would have once changed, if given the chance. My mother’s car accident, my sister’s rape and the loss of my first child would make the top of the list, however, that would not be in the best interest of anyone because those events were pivotal to events, which occurred afterward.
Changing an event in the past is akin to pulling a loose thread out of a tapestry. When you see a tapestry, sometimes a thread has broken and is sticking out. It looks bad and makes you want to pull that thread out, but if you do, you cause a chain reaction, which can destabilize the integrity of the tapestry and cause it to unravel. If I had a chance to stop the loss of our first child, I would not have the son I have today because we would not have been able to afford another child at that time. Everything my son has done and every life he has touched would be changed. I can’t bear the thought of losing him.
If I had a chance to stop my sister’s rape, I would not because that event caused her to leave home and live with my grandparents, where she met her husband and now has a 10-year-old son. If she had remained living with my parents, my nephew would not exist today and like the previous example, every life that he has touched would now be changed.
The final event in my example, though, is the most powerful event in the life of my family. Twenty-Five years ago, my mother and sister were involved in a head-on collision with a man who was traveling on the wrong side of the road. Doctors believe this wreck acted as a catalyst for my mother’s Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Lupus. Ten years after the accident, she had to stop teaching because the pain was too unbearable. This caused my father to step out of Insurance Management to help care for her, but he did this just when a recession hit. His pay was cut by 75% and I no longer had money to attend college. I dropped out and found a job with a local company. Three years later, I married my wife and we had a little boy. I received a job transfer to North Carolina a few years after that and after a series of other events now work in a job that will pay for my retirement and my son’s college education.
If I had a chance to stop my mother’s car accident, these events would not have happened. I would have stayed in college, never met my wife and would be working as a journalist instead of a computer technician. Who knows what I would be doing now, with the economic turmoil that has occurred in the last 15 years. Everything in my life has occurred because of a chain reaction caused by another event in my mother’s past.
I brought this subject up for discussion at OBOD’s Druid Grove forum. In a poll taken, 67% of respondents chose not to make any changes in their life, if given a chance. Some of these individuals made very good points.
Sorcha A. R. (OBOD Bard) had this to say on the subject. “Everything that happens to us helps to shape who we are (and it makes for interesting tapestries). At the bottom of all of my posts is the phrase “Seek to live a life with no regrets. Do that, and there will be no need for wishes.” And that is my answer to your question. I believe it is not only pointless to regret things we have no control over or things we didn’t know at the time, but it is also damaging to oneself to dwell on the past. We should not be thinking about what we should have done. Instead, we should be thinking about what we can do to make life better, now and in the future. If we give life all we’ve got then that’s it, we’ve done our best. So I don’t need to wish for do-over’s or a more fulfilling life because I’m already giving my all. I’ll take what life throws at me, whether good times or bad (like high school). And I’ll learn from them.”
Moonpanther (OBOD Ovate) said, “I believe that life (and indeed the greater life of your soul which may include many physical lives) is a series of lessons that shape who you are and therefore how you react to future lessons. Not all my lessons this time around have been fun, nor are they something that I would necessarily want to repeat, but having said that… if I went back and changed something so that I did not learn what I have learnt now I would not know it and if that situation came up again I would likely have to go through the stuff that caused me to go back and change it in the first place. Therefore, my moral of the story is learn from your life experiences, both good and bad, move on, taking that knowledge with you and so evolve. And that’s without even bringing the domino effect of how your actions affect others into it….”
Many people agreed with Wraithian (OBOD Ovate) who stated, “Everything I’ve been through, everything I’ve done, has made me the man I am today. I kinda like me. So no, I wouldn’t go back and undo my “mistakes.”
Ailim (OBOD Druid) said, “Each of us changes the world in which we live, merely by breathing. I am a firm believer of cause and effect. To go back in time to change something we don’t like or agree with, may affect not just our future but that of countless other humans and all life forms on this planet. We evolve by trial and error. Who is to say that rubbing out the past would make us better or worse? And if we had that ability, who would win: the good guys or the bad?”
Thus far, I have only quoted from those who voted “No” because there were few who voted “Yes” that actually responded to the question. Below are some of their responses.
A forum member named Warlock said, “We are clever and can learn as we go, but we have a limited time on the planet, so by going back and correcting mistakes we could see what else might be. We can learn more and more.”
Finally, forum member Moira Rhydd said, “I understand why so many people voted “no”–all of those reasons make perfect moral sense. I voted “yes” nonetheless because it would have been neat to figure out who I might have become had my father not been unhappy and abusive, had we not changed countries so many times, had I finished my Master’s degree at 22 and gone on straight to a PhD instead of waiting (wasting?) another 14 years to do so, etc… I voted “yes,” then, *knowing* that I can’t go back and change any of it, and knowing that I’ve been extremely fortunate and am quite resilient despite those mishaps and instances of hardship along the way. For me, it’s not about regret at all. I guess I voted “yes” in a Faustian kind of way… What if…? One has to wonder… I’d love a peek at what might have been, no? The what-ifs are fascinating in a literary kind of way: what other life might I have had… Whom else might I have been…?”
In closing, I believe the happiest person in the world will be content with who they are. If a person is not content or dislikes the person they have become, there is always time to change that, but that answer does not lie in the past. It lies at the heart of what we choose to do with our future. To be content in life, people must learn to love themselves and look introspectively upon their life to find peace within themselves. Those who dwell on the past only end up sinking into despair and wallowing in a mire of self-loathing. Those who look to the future can have joy in the fact that each day is a new day to make their lives and the lives of those around them a better place.