Doris Kearns Goodwin “The past is not simply the past, but a prism through which the subject filters his own changing self-image.”
How do we allow the past to inform us of our present self image? What do we learn from events that do not leave us?”
One youth has told me about the same event many times. “He slapped my mother, looked around at my two siblings and myself and left. I think his face had disgust on it. I didn’t see him for another fifteen years.”
The first time he told me, all he wanted was to beat up his father when he saw him again.
As he grew in confidence and purpose, he learned something different from the event.
“I don’t want to go to jail like my father,” he declares.
Later on, he says, “I want my family to be proud of what I do. I don’t want my brother and sister to grow up thinking they have to be like my father.”
Even later, he says “I think my father leaving was a wake up call for me. I had to decide and I am still deciding what kind of man I want to be. I used to think that we got a raw deal when he left. Now, I think that I had to learn what the real world is like and how it is up to me to choose what I want to be.”
I don’t know how many more times he will change the prism of his past. As long as he keeps asking the question of himself of what he is learning from it, then his self image is informed and not enslaved by the past event.
So it is for all of us.
Events happen to all of us that can either leave scars or pointers. Our interpretation of it changes as we grow in purpose and determination. No event determines our fate.
We do that.