Clinging to the Past Hinders Progress
I recently tossed the old gooseneck desk lamp next to my computer desk, albeit reluctantly. It was a forced decision.
A kitchen light had blown and our efforts to restore power by flipping the circuit breaker failed. But by a quirk of jury-rigged home design, that also knocked out power to part of my office upstairs.
That meant heading for a library branch to check email and get some work done.
During my absence, an electrician visited to inspect the damage and arrange to return later to remove the kitchen fixture. He also advised my wife that I needed to do something about my office set-up.
Fixing What’s Broken
A few days later, after finishing downstairs, the electrician and I discussed my office.
I thought he was going to suggest installing another electric outlet, but he said there wasn’t room in our breaker box to add one.
He just wanted to let me know that I should buy a new surge suppressor, and replace a cheap strip powering several more devices.
“That cord is pretty old too,” he said, pointing at the gooseneck lamp I’d had for nearly 45 years. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a new light.”
Parting with the old bird wasn’t easy. A college graduation present from my late parents, it was a sentimental reminder of them.
Besides, it still worked. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Facing the Truth
However, after considering the professional advice I had just received, I had to admit it was broke.
The three-way switch only worked on one setting, even after I installed a new switch a few years ago.
In addition, every time I went downstairs for any length of time, I had to turn it off to avoid another potential catastrophe.
Several years earlier the lampshade had fallen from its shaky perch and onto the bulb. I rescued it in time, but the shade still bore a huge hole, blackened around the edges.
Hanging on Too Long
As I reflect, it seems a tad ridiculous that I hung on to that gooseneck lamp for as long as I did. Still, it poses an object lesson for how we can approach life.
While I wouldn’t admit to living in the past, as a senior citizen it’s much too easy to lapse into a “remember when?” mode.
But pining for the past won’t help it return, nor will such longings help us move into the future.
In our city, an old bus barn once sat on a main thoroughfare. For a while, the abandoned facility hosted a flea market on the weekends. That was good for bargain hunters but didn’t do much for appearances.
Finally, a convenience store/gas station chain bought the property, tore down the old building, and put up a sparkling new facility.
Yet, right after it opened, a letter to the editor appeared in the local newspaper. It lamented the bus barn’s disappearance and complained we were losing our heritage.
“What?” I said to myself. “That old eyesore? Good riddance.”
Welcoming the Future
Since then, an old field house has given way to a new soccer stadium. It was a welcome development; the field house’s roof leaked and nobody had a million dollars to repair it.
In another place where we once lived, a group of historical preservationists lamented the construction of a new, attractive building. The reason? The property where it sat included three old houses—three abandoned, antiquated, decaying old houses.
Fortunately, the complainers were too late to prevent progress. Clinging to the past keeps us from stepping into the future, as evidenced by the new, fully-functional, much brighter light stationed by my computer.