Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lessons from The Great Gatsby

I love movies! In fact I write movie reviews on one of my other blogs. Over the weekend, I saw The Great Gatsby. I was really looking forward to it as this is one of my favorite books of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fantastic job as Gatsby a man smitten with the notion of winning the heart of Daisy Buchanan. In fact, he wants to erase the five years of war and marriage and bootlegging that has come between him However, his new friend and neighbor warns him that “You can’t recreate the past.” To which Gatsby responds, “Can’t recreate the past? … Why of course you can!”

Unfortunately Gatsby finds out that you really can’t recreate the past. You can’t recreate it. You cannot return to it. You cannot relive it. No amount of money or time or force of will will bring it back. So what can we learn from Jay Gatsby.

You cannot spend the present trying to recreate the past. How many of us live a life of regret, trying to make up for past mistakes and missteps? We think, “If only” or “I should’ve” Everyone thinks those thoughts once in a while but when they begin to consume the better part of your days, you are getting into trouble. The scary part is that one day you’ll wake up and see all the time you lost and will never be able to get back.

Was the past even the past? Some people say hindsight is 20/20 and I guess it does have that sort of clarity when you can look back and see your mistakes and review your decisions and actions with maturity and an emotional distance that only time can bring. However, when you look at the past through distorted rose-colored glasses, it is anything but 20/20. The past is made up of memories and thoughts. Memories and thoughts are never objective; they are always seen through our own very specific filters. 

Just like you can’t see through another person’s prescription glasses, none of us look at the same events the same way. We all have fond memories and things we’d rather forget. Yet with time, those fond memories can become idyllic illusions and the dark memories can become darker and denser. Were the good old days really that good? Were there a few bright moments during those dark times?

Learn to Let It Go. However, good or bad, the past is the past. There are no time machines or do overs. Some wounds leave scars but a scar is never as bad as the actual injury was. As adults, we have a responsibility to ourselves and those in our lives, to heal those wounds as best we can. However, we need to keep our good memories in perspective as well. In some cases, we make monuments of people and events from our past and nothing can ever compete with those images. You compare your great past love to every other man (or woman) you meet conveniently forgetting his faults and idiosyncrasies in the process. The time that separates us from our past lives is usually a good thing.

The past is history … our personal histories. We can learn from it and take those lessons into our present but that is all we can really do with it.

Want to know what I thought about the movie? Read my review at

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