Past and future

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a tendency to idealize the past. The present holds little interest. The future, full of possibilities. Now that I am older, I confess that the future sometimes fills me with angst. The past, though, despite what the reality was at the time, looks as lush and green as ever.

When I was in my early twenties, one of my favourite novels was The Weekend Man by Canadian author Richard B. Wright. He referred to this longing for the past as “the nostalgies“. I find myself more than ever afflicted with the nostalgies these days. I am a weekend man, I suppose.

“What is a weekend man, you ask? A weekend man is a person who has abandoned the present in favour of the past or the future. He is really more interested in what happened to him twenty years ago or in what is going to happen to him next week than he is in what is happening to him today. If the truth were known, nothing much happens to most of us during the course of our daily passage. It has to be said. Unless we are test pilots or movie stars, most of us are likely to wake up tomorrow morning to the same ordinary flatness of our lives. This is not really such a bad thing. It is probably better than fighting off a sabre-tooth tiger at the entrance to the cave. But we weekend men never leave well enough alone. First off, we must cast about for a diversion. A diversion is anything that removes us from the ordinary present. Sometimes we divert ourselves into our own past. This is more likely to happen as we grow older. I am only thirty, for instance, but in the course of an average day I sometimes shake my head a dozen times to keep from sinking into my own past. Diverting oneself into the past would not be so bad if it didn’t bring on the nostalgies. But, of course, it does, and a severe case of the nostalgies can often as not leave a person worse off than he was before.

It is also possible to divert oneself into the future; that is, look forward to something that is going to happen to you on Friday night or next July 23. This is all right except that it never happens the way you imagine it will: in fact, it’s just as likely to turn into a disappointment. And that can plunge a person into the worst kind of despair. The weekend man simply never learns to live with the thundering ironies. He is forever looking backwards and being afflicted by a painful sense of loss or he is looking forward and being continually disappointed. What to do? Well, you’ll have to work it out for yourself. I myself just drift along, hoping that the daily passage will deliver up a few painless diversions. Most of the time, however, I am quietly gritting my teeth and just holding on.”

– Richard B. Wright, Weekend Man

  1. “Most of the time, however, I am quietly gritting my teeth and just holding on.”

    Yes, diversions, if it wasn’t for the diversions that we let distract us, we would surely go mad.

    A part of me today was questioning if this li’l ol’ adventure o’ mine, is just nothing more than a great big diversion too… with it’s distractions of where to drive now, what to eat, where to sleep… who has time to think of philosophical, existential things, when one’s reverted back to when man’s existence was just akin to basic survival kind of living… hm ?

    As a side note, Paul – I tried to view this on my iPad, and for some reason, the bookquote of Wright’s is pretty much unreadable, the font color is almost that of your background (which cool, by the way… someone else who prefers a light on dark presentation ?), whereas here on my laptop, the font is clearly a lighter color, and perfectly readable. Maybe you should check your mobile settings perhaps.

    • Well, it seems that you’re doing more than just living and sleeping, though. Maybe you’re experiencing a bit of living “free” and possibly allowing some aspects of your nature to come to the surface that are usually suppressed in the 9 to 5 world. I wonder if the old life was the diversion? I’m playing psychoanalyst here 🙂

      About the font colour … yeah, I noticed it earlier and thought I fixed it, so I’m wondering if you saw it before I fixed it or if I actually didn’t fix it. If you see this message and have a chance to verify, please let me know.

      • Sorry for the late reply… obviously the answer is ‘yes’ now (showing up on iPad), since you went and completely redid the whole look of your site 😉 And, so I’ll now know if and when you actually respond to me, I see you have the nice handy dandy notification buttons for me to click and thusly be so… may have to check on my site to see if those are so there too…

        As to your first paragraph… I don’t know if living “free” is something I am experiencing more now… it’s all still a mixed bag with me of what this all is… still haven’t eliminated that this too is just perhaps too is all another diversion… all still a very big question mark

        • Yeah, this email notification on comments is a great feature. I specifically searched to find a plugin for WordPress that adds this functionality to the commenting system on my site precisely because of the contrast in my experience in commenting on Richo’s blog and on yours — it really drove home to me how convenient a feature it is when I’d leave comments on both your blogs, but wouldn’t get notifications of replies from yours. Definitely worth checking in to!

          You are the first person I’m replying to that should receive a notification of my reply. Let me know if you do!

  2. I dig the photo Paul. Not sure if it’s about time so much as space for me, but I like it. I think most of us are weekend men. Im seldom in the here and now. I don’t exactly have nostalgia for the past, but I do look back on how my various crises were not the end of the world, whether it was job loss, death of parents, or whatever. The future is always full of dread and anxiety and unknowns that makes me long for problems that were ultimately manageable….

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