Learning from the past

wfusMy high school (upper school, as we called it) was demolished a year or two ago to make way for a newer, better facility.

For no apparent reason, as I went to bed the other day, I became incredibly sad over this, although it is not a recent event.

For about an hour, I tossed and turned remembering every hallway, every room, every nook and cranny of that once proud building. Each step I took around that place in my mind, brought back feelings and events as if they happened only yesterday. If the building was still there, I could take you on a guided tour for hours, retelling tales from my past.

The reality is that it’s gone though. Vanished, relegated to the history books in favor of something new. I can’t even find a picture of the old building anywhere online. In fact, even the school badge displayed here is the ‘new’ badge, modified to remove the word ‘Upper’ from its name. In my day, it was Weston Favell Upper School. WFUS for short.

My WFUS is gone.

I would love to recount many of the stories I remembered that night but there simply isn’t time in one blog post. It would take volumes of books to fully retell all that I remember from that wonderful place. However, the most striking of all my memories center around the stage in the main hall.

Every year I attended the school, I was involved in some capacity in a school play or production. We did a pantomime of Aladdin, one or other of Shakespeare’s plays, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, The Little Shop of Horrors and Under Milk Wood.

I can’t act to save my life, but that didn’t matter. There were plenty of walk-on parts or parts with only one or two lines that I could be cast into – and I’d take whatever I could get because just being involved in the process felt something approaching magical.

I have written and rewritten this section numerous times trying to succinctly convey the incredible experience of being thrown together with a diverse group of people to learn, rehearse and perform a play but I can’t do so in a short space.

The rehearsals. The new relationships. The schoolboy crushes. The hopes. The dreams. The nerves, excitement and adrenelin of the first night. The exuberance mixed with sadness at the party after the last night.

It is all so vivid to me even now. The closest I can come to accurately describing it is that it’s like going away to camp without actually going away. You experience all of the feelings and tumultuous emotions without having to leave the comfort of living at home.

But nothing, and I do mean NOTHING beats the feeling of stepping out on to that stage. Nothing. Trust me.

Yet now that stage is gone.

As I lay there in my bed, unable to sleep, I had a Coffey-esque moment and asked myself, “What can I learn from this.”

I was reminiscing incessantly about the past, what could I learn from that?

Right at that moment, Harry Patch and Millvina Dean popped into my head. I never met either of these people yet their recent deaths brought a cloud of sadness to my life for a while.

Harry Patch was, until his death a few weeks ago, the last remaining British Serviceman to have served in the Trenches in World War One. The last one. Now he’s gone.

Millvina Dean was, until she died on May 31st 2009, the last surviving passenger of the Titanic. Now there is no-one left alive who sailed on that ill-fated voyage.

Why does it make me sad they they have died? The answer is simple: There is now no living link to those World-changing events of the past. The memory of what happened is now relegated to paper, celluloid, digital files and second hand recountings. Never again can someone who was there answer a new question or shed light on some new piece of information. Never again can they remind us that those events, which seem so far past, happened not very long ago.

As I thought about these two individuals and remembered my own past, I realized once again how important it is for us to remember who we are and where we have come from.

Living is the past is dangerous. It has gone. We cannot go back. Spend too much time looking back and you miss the excitement and wonder of the present.

Forgetting the past holds equal danger though. We must remember our past successes and allow them to give us confidence for the future and we must recall our failures to learn from them, so we do not repeat past mistakes.

The bible reminds us in Colossians 3 that we were once sinners but there was a turning point, a moment when the old passed away and the new came.

It is important even for us, as Christians, to remember the past and learn from our mistakes but most importantly, to remember that we are saved and we are no longer the same.

We are new creations. Let’s live like it today!

Colossians 3:1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.