"The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present" - G.K. Chesterton
The world is moving so incredibly fast these days. Technology races on. Most of our dreams lie in the promise of the days ahead. And So, we live for that tomorrow.
But it also seems that the past holds the true wisdom. While it doesn't sparkle like the new or keep us on edge, it seems the things we need to learn, the rich wisdom that comes from collected time and experiences, manifests itself in our past. And in our journals of collected time.
But we race on, forgetting all that. Dreaming forward. While the things we need to know and discover, are usually treasures bound in our memory if we ever dare go back and unlock them.
It's probably why I've always been curious about the old men gathered around a table at some old breakfast spot. What stories do they hold? What experiences have they been through?
Often when work gets overwhelming, or I find myself in a fog I will drive to an old antique mall a few miles out of the city. It's an old factory with cracked wooden floors and old bricks still holding the place up with a little tarnished pride from its glory days in manufacturing. It spans a few football fields on the inside.
I walk around the place in search of old things. Former things. There are books, furniture, signs of old places, and weathered pictures of a time since past.
Often I walk by old ladies presumably named Edna or Gertrude. And I give a polite nod. As I scan through and look at old posters, and soap boxes, and dig through to see an old catchers mitt.
Sometimes I find the treasure of an old leather briefcase bag we could bring back and re-create, but the more and more I go, the more I realize I just want to get lost there.
(Old Attache Bag Found on a Trip; We've Re-created it for Buffalo Jackson as the Harison Attache Leather Briefcase Bag)
There is something about yesterday, of twenty years ago, or forty, or back during that war and before the technology we hold so dearly was around. Yes, some is junk, but often there sits things waiting for a chance to be relevant again.
To know where you are going, you need to know where you have been.
They say our memories hold about 30 years, so whatever mistakes our culture makes, or we make, we will make again. Inevitably, because we forget.
I think that is why I go there. These things hold some of those treasures and wisdom. In the midst of my rush forward, these things take me back. I need to remember what I will inevitably forget.
(The Depot Antique Mall)
By getting lost in these old things, it somehow reorients me. Puts me back in the story I live in. Our country, our heritage, our age. It's as if the things themselves are whispering and telling the stories of old. And I try to listen.
And then I go home.
I used to think I needed to buy the things I saw. An old clock, or a vintage poster that caught my eye. I couldn't just admire it and move on. I felt like I had to take it home and own it.
But the last two visits at this antique mall, I didn't buy a thing. Even to my own surprise. And yet, I took away more than the previous times. It seems it is more about going. And experiencing. And taking it in. Bringing back the collected wisdom of what it all taught me.
I'm grateful for the wisdom of that old place. Like a dusty time machine that takes you back into old stories. Wisdom to be discovered.
We need to remember by going back. So as G.K. Chesterton explains, we can know our present.
By Xan Hood, Founder of Buffalo Jackson