The past came back enjoyably to my tiny village in mid-Wales last night when most of the 29 families which live here came together to watch the film of our Millennium Pageant.
The record of how this close-knit community celebrated the advent of 2000 had never been shown before and so it was a special event. I was not living here at the time - though I wish I had been! - and loved seeing the history of my home land being enacted by my neighbours: I was amazed by the professionalism but, perhaps most of all, moved by the reminder of the beauty of this place surrounded as it is my mountains, trees, waters and big sky.
For a couple of hours we re-lived the past and for those who had been there it must have brought back strong memories of something very special both for its celebration of life and land, and also of family. However, life does not stay still: some people who were there have moved on, one way or another; children 12 years ago now have children of their own; and for every person present then, change of some degree has happened. Only the lands remain seemingly unaltered, but they too have been affected nonetheless by the passage of human time and energy.
Nostalgia for a happy time can be a healing reminder of the importance, for example, of community spirit and co-operation, but it can be dangerous also if the desire to remember and re-live mentally is to avoid confronting what is in the present. The past is vital for creating who and what we are now, for we are the sum total of all that has gone before whether it is a second or a decade, but memory can be a prison unless it is managed well. It can remind us of what we are not and tell us what we should be as it juggles comparison and judgment in our thoughts. I wonder how many people who were in our Village Hall last night went home, looked in the mirror and wondered at how they had changed in just a few years? Did they see the new lines of wisdom and experience on their face, or see themselves as growing old?
It is lovely to enjoy the past but important to see it as something separate from us, a closed chapter we are glancing at before shutting the book again. The pageant is done and never will be repeated, just like the past.