The Israelites were like that in the wilderness. All they could do was look backward: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for naught (i.e. cheaply), the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic” (Num.11:5).
Distance made the heart grow fonder. They saw even Egypt through rose-coloured spectacles. Compared to the past, the present was unimpressive.
There is a value in nostalgia. But life cannot be lived backward. Only in your fantasies can you be back again re-living your childhood or any other stage of your life history.
And this explains something I said to the children who were interviewing me for a “living historian” project. They wanted to know which was the most important day in my life, and I said, “Today… and tomorrow”.
Today, because every today is a new, exciting opportunity. Tomorrow, because if I handle today wisely I can help to shape the future.
I am sometimes jealous of my children and grandchildren, because the likelihood is that they will see wonderful developments in the future which I may not see. But I know that what I do today and tomorrow will lay the foundations for what they are, experience and achieve.
You want to look back? Good luck to you. Maybe the fish really was tastier then, and the cucumbers were better, and the melons, leeks, onions and garlic too. But as Solomon Schechter said, you cannot feel with your grandfather’s heart. You can think of the past, but you have to live your live forward.
The best days of your life? The poet was right: the best is yet to be.