Lessons from the past

3 Aug 2018

I received a marriage certificate in the post today; it wasn't mine.

A baby boy, Charles, was born in 1821. He was christened at the local church but no father was recorded. He married in 1840 and died in 1844 of an indeterminate illness, leaving no descendants. His life story would likely have been consigned to obscurity had it not been for an archaeological dig over his burial place due to a new building construction (I appreciate the many ethical considerations and debates surrounding this) and my taking up the challenge of discovering his history. This has been beset with many challenges; research into the lives of the deceased is based on official records – mainly birth, marriage and death certificates, census records and church records. These give us tiny snapshots into people's lives but no real indication as to who they really were – their passions, fears, hopes, successes, phobias, failures etc.

Historical research demonstrates that the really intimate, personal details of our lives die with us unless we record them, either formally or informally. I know nothing of Charles' emotions or feelings. I have no idea as to what made him tick. I keep trying to dig down to find out who he really was.

Yet, I spend my whole life worrying about things that might happen, things that have happened, who I am and who I might be. Then, I think of Charles and realise that whatever my biggest worries are, they will die with me. Therefore, why do I worry about them as they will be consigned to the dustbin of history?

Sometimes we need to step back from our worries and realise that, whilst they may seem all-consuming in the present moment, they become irrelevant in the long-term. I know that lots of us spend too much mental energy focusing on things that seem overwhelming but don't actually make a difference to our lives or history. What incessantly matters to you or me now won't matter in a couple of years as we will move on and forget the troubles and anxieties we have now. I also know how hard it is to let go of those troublesome thoughts but sometimes we need to think of our ancestors and how they released their fears to the wind. Our lives are our own to do with as we please; nobody knows what we do and we can look into our hearts to live our lives as we wish. We need to stop caring about what others think.


A Moodscope member.

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