Acknowledging How the Past Affects Us

Patrick Frank

Advisor Member
Dec 15, 2014
Arden, NC
I learned, as a poet, to be open to the significance of a single word and to explore its meaning. One word, like freedom, or slavery, or darkness or light, or each distinct color in the rainbow, can connect with many diverse aspects of one’s personal experience. I have also learned to think about the connection that exists between disparate events in one’s personal life, or within our society: like the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis and the massacre committed in that AME church in Charleston.

There is a sense in which everything is somehow connected in the universe. This notion can be grasped philosophically, spiritually, or scientifically, as a result of study and deep reflection, But to become fully aware of the connectedness between events in our personal lives—this is perhaps a much more daunting task, because something in us may want to ignore some of these connections. Why? Because they can lead to searing emotional pain if they are acknowledged…like the connection between one’s estrangement from a parent figure early in life and problems one manifests in forming close relationships (with adequate boundaries), later on.

We like to regard ourselves as blank slates, freed from internal constraints imposed by past experience. But we are not blank slates and we have been strongly affected by everything significant that has occurred in the past. Still, through prayer, meditation, creative work and sometimes therapy, we CAN gain a greater capacity to establish new friendships and intimate relationships that are stronger but rest on more level and equal ground. We can learn, for instance, to be in an intimate long-term relationship without sacrificing individual uniqueness and ultimate autonomy. In other words, two can become one while (paradoxically, perhaps) remaining autonomous human beings living out our earthly lives.