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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You only make progress by moving forward



    “Where you come from matters less than where you’re going” is the title I gave to the book of my essays that was published in Zimbabwe in 2011. That’s a long title, and there are those in the writing world who think book titles should be short and snappy. I don’t disagree with that generally, but I also believe they should convey a message about the contents, and my lengthy title was intended to do just that.
    It also generated a lot of comment, some negative; one critic panned it, saying that I was attempting to rewrite or erase history. That person missed my point entirely. I did not say, nor was it my intent to say, that where you come from doesn’t matter – anyone who reads the title carefully, as well as the essays contained in the book, will see that. I said that your origins matter ‘less’ than your eventual destination. Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The essential meaning of that phrase is that time is an ever-moving stream, proceeding inexorably into the future. The past is just that, the past, it can be recalled, but never recaptured or relived. We will all get to some point in the future, but the quality of that journey will depend on whether we’ve set our sights in the right direction.
    An obsessive preoccupation with the past; using the past as an excuse for present failure; will diminish the quality of the future when it arrives. Where we come from provides the foundation from which the building of our future springs, but we can improve upon that foundation if we deal effectively with the present as we prepare for the future. Whether the past was good or bad, while it can affect us, is not all that relevant. You can’t undo the past, but by letting it anchor you too much, it can undo your future.
    We are all the captains of our own ship; the masters in the end of our own fate. Perhaps another way of putting it is “Where’re you’re going is more important than where you’ve been.”