THE BRIGHT FIELD
One of the most destructive negative attitudes towards one's past or towards one's memory is the attitude of regret. Often regret is very false and displaced, imagining the past to be totally other than it was. The phrase from Edith Piaf, 'Je ne regrette rien', is a wonderful in its free and wild acceptance.
I know a wild woman who has lived a very unprotected life. She has had a lot of trouble and things have often gone wrong for her. I remember that she said to me one time, 'I don't regret a bit of it. It is my life, and in everything negative that happened to mek, there was always something bright hidden.' She brought a lovely integrating perspective to her past, a way to retrieve treasures that were hidden in past difficulties. Sometimes difficulty is the greatest friend of the soul. There is a beautiful poem by the Welsh poet R. S. Thomas about looking back on life feeling, maybe, that you missed something or that you regret something that you did not do. It is called 'The Bright Field':
I have seen the light break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great prize, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush. To a brightness
that seems as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
At the heart of R. S. Thomas's beautiful poem is a Celtic idea of time. Your time is not just past or future. Your time here always inhabits the circle of your soul. All your time is gathered and even your future is waiting here for you. In a certain sense your past is not gone, but rather is hidden in your memory. Your time is the deeper seed of the eternity that is waiting to welcome you.