Retrospection is one of those words which unpacks into something far greater than its initial syllables. By definition it means to cast one’s mental gaze back to occurrences of the past, an act which most naturally, most humanly, leads us to introspection, which is to say: self analysis.
Without a certain degree of reflection we are hopelessly adrift upon life’s ocean. Introspection is an essential instrument in plotting the route of our self growth, betterment, and thus contentment.
Of course, few voyages take quite the course we have in mind, and so equally we must develop the ability to adapt to the unforseeable; it is logically impeding to hope to progress through life learning primarily from events which have already passed, i.e. a ‘What NOT to do next time’ mentality.
Whilst it may lead inexorably to self betterment, progress would be slow indeed and most likely encourage resentment as much as contentment.
For life occurs in the present and, whether or not we are embracing our opportunities for challenge, is constantly bombarding us with difficulties the same way the Moon’s surface is bombarded by space debris.
I suppose the fitting question is: How to avoid becoming pockmarked in the same way? Well that is simple in theory and requires only a slight extension of the lunar metaphor; what has the Earth which the Moon has not? A protective atmosphere of course. Much as a meteor set on its collision path cannot be deterred, so difficulties in our lives cannot be avoided. What we must do is develop an atmosphere of modest adaptability, not to avoid challenge but to lessen it’s impact by recognising its inevitability, and facing it.
Alongside a healthy retrospective inclination, there is little life can throw at us which cannot be weathered, and once we survive even a seemingly cataclysmic event, we are able to realise that much of its gravity was due to our own warped approximation.
‘Nothing happens to any of us that we are not formed by nature to bear.’
– Marcus Aurelius
I use this term ‘healthy’ deliberately, for many of us are all too aware of what it means to have an un-healthy inclination to self analyse. It works on the same ‘unpacking’ principal as I have already presented, in that it has an exponentially multiplicative effect, not so dissimilar to the growth and division of a cell in fact.
It is the the rabbit hole into which Alice delved and found Wonderland, a place full of wonder, but far from wonderful.
Introspection is a way for us to better understand the world and our place within it, but can so very easily become a form of self degradation; not a tool to learn but instead a constant reminder that we are inept.
Examination of the minutiae is the very embodiment of mental illnesses such as Depression; the deeper you go the further you are from where you started, until it seems you may as well try to push out the other end, except there is no other end and now the path seems closed behind you.
It is all perspective-orientated of course, but given that our very reality is governed by perspective, it is no small thing. You will want to believe you are alone. Whilst that may be quite true, it is utterly false:
You are not alone.
There is more to retrospection than the individual though. Group retrospection has been the basis of human community since time unremembered; how to hunt and gather, avoid danger and live with the seasons of the land. It is reckoned that to this communi(ty)cation, we as a species owe our survival and existence; it is what gave homosapiens prominence over the other early hominids.
With the developments of recent decades we have now entered into a global community, which is uncharted waters and often still turbulent, as we struggle to suppress our urge to prove which of our ships houses the biggest cannon.
As I see it though, here is an opportunity for us to extrapolate community retrospection like never before. If we can only utilise our interconnectivity to unite us all as one community, to focus on learning and dispelling the evils of ignorance, we can begin to take steps towards true congruency; a single human community, just as it once started.
Geopolitics will lag behind as it always does, we’ve forgotten we’re all kin, but whilst politicians play the great game we need not stand idle. We are the people. We are not powerless, so long as we all have the power to perceive, for perception dictates reality.
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’