Not as though I had already attained, neither was already perfect, . . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before . . . I press toward the mark. — Philip., iii, 13
Kill in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or thou art lost. — The Voice of the Silence
Let us turn the leaf upon the blotted record of the past and make a fairer set of entries in the open journal of today. The past is country we have traveled through, and now our whole concern is how we may best get through the day's march. We might, of course, sit down and engage in retrospect, tracing those points at which we wandered from the path, glancing backwards at the mud-holes in which we were almost foundered; but such a futile waste of time and effort is not for the Pilgrim of Eternity. Our present position is the resultant of all our past, and our future opportunity. Forward, march!
The pathway of advance must of necessity be strewn with failures, because in acquiring the use of new powers we must often fall short of success. But that we now have the use of these powers is all that matters, and why should we pause and conjure up again the vanished specters of the days gone by? The waters of oblivion may be left to do their cleansing task upon the dismal memoranda of the past that we have left behind.
All final success is the culmination of hosts of failures, and on the stepping-stones of our abortive efforts we rise to higher levels of attainment. The eternal Now is that cross-section of eternal duration in which alone we live and work. The water which has flowed down-stream has lost its opportunity to turn the wheel. Now is the only time we have in which to do our work. Why should we ever turn our minds to view the dead and buried past?
Not that the past is really dead, for all that, because each weak surrender, every mood of self-indulgence, still lives on in the man of the present. We are the past of ourselves and it survives in our character of today. That past can be transmuted by the steady flame of our aspiring mind into the purest gold; but this alchemical process demands a continuous heat, a steady fire that never fails to radiate its genial glow. The magic of the spiritual will is operative only in the living present, and its field of action does not run backwards into the past.
Failure is natural, normal and unavoidable, and however much it seems complete, is not disaster, so long as the indomitable will to try again lives on.
One fatal result of brooding over days gone by is that in the process regret is developed, a mental sorrow for past misdoing. This gray, depressing, interior fog is actually reckoned as being desirable and distinctly meritorious by certain sectaries, and unfortunate babies are afflicted by being christened "Dolores," as though there were something praiseworthy and attractive about those who are prostrated with grief on account of their load of ancient sin! Regret is a motion of the mind and hence an energy, and all our energy must be conserved and husbanded if we would ever reach the goal we have proposed. By generating gloomy clouds of sorrow and repentance we tend to obscure and darken the common atmosphere of thought in which we live, and by perpetually dwelling on our "sins" we actually infuse them with an added wave of life and almost invite their repetition.
Ideals in the mind are often considered to be unsubstantial things, while our specific failures to act up to them are seen to stand out as enduring monuments of our incompetence. As a matter of fact, it is these supposedly ephemeral ideals that are the permanent, foundation factors in our lives, while our failures may be compared to the waste clippings on the floor of the workshop, to be cast into the crucible and used again in fresh attempts. Let us then, hold fast to our floating ideals and pour fresh life into them by the brooding heat of our aspiration. They are only unsubstantial in so far as we have failed to give them a place in our lives. On their own plane they are the raw material of a better life to be: they are positive and prophetic and absolutely compel their own fulfilment.
Forward, then, upon the track that leads to a future all unknown! Repeated failures must, indeed, attend us on the onward march, but each advancing step is cheered by the tones of an eternal hope.
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