(Before I move on I need to bring a health warning for anyone who might read this article who is under thirty say. You are going to feel so young when you read things that were around way before you entered this world, that you might want to stop reading now! You have been warned! This is written for us of the older generation!) When you look back, I wonder what you would classify as big events in your life? Passing some important exams? Getting married? Having children? (having a divorce?) Having a serious operation? Being told you have a terminal illness….. whoah! Hold on, let’s not get morbid, but yes these are the things I guess most of us would say were ‘big events’. But perhaps the big events were sometimes not so much things that happened to us but things that happened in the world, the sort of things people say you will remember what you were doing when you heard this. Now in fact I don’t remember what I was doing when Kennedy was assassinated, or the first man stepped onto the moon. I do remember where I was and what I was doing when the twin towers were attacked or London had bus and train terrorist bombs. So these ‘big events’ are likely to be either personal or newsworthy.
But then there were some events in my lifetime that I knew nothing about at the time but they have had serious and significant effects, such as the bombing of Hiroshima which must have happened about the time of my birth, or the invention of the personal computer and the Internet, and there must be thousand of similar such things like that which happened without my knowledge but go to shape our world today. Now we just live with them or their effects.
Now that reminds me of something which, at the time, I considered a little event. I had bought an Amstrad PCW (you have got to be old to remember them!) and was experimenting with learning a little ‘Basic’ programming language and had written several short programs to teach Law. I was working on this in our front spare room (only years later to be called an office) when the older of my two sons wandered in – he must have only been about eight or nine I guess – and I paused up and without a great deal of thought asked him, “Would you like me to teach you how to program?” Probably just to please his old man he said yes and nine months later I couldn’t understand what he was talking about when it came to programming! As a result, he went on to do computer studies at Uni and now runs a successful web-
When you let your mind wander back I have a feeling there are probably dozens of ‘little events’ that had life changing consequences. There was an occasion (what am I doing telling you about my personal life????) when I was in a room-
Today ‘big events’ are attending a wedding of family or close friends’ children, or going to a funeral of someone we have known for years, or going into hospital for an operation. Big or dramatic events in the past coming out of my memory include rushing my wife into hospital when she fell and cut herself so badly it was impossible to staunch the pouring blood. Or there was the time when my younger son broke both arms showing off holding onto a basketball ring and then falling. A big event was a friend coming to meet us on holiday and falling asleep at the wheel and taking his car and his family headlong into an oncoming lorry, and us visiting him in hospital afterwards. I suspect ‘big events’ tend to be memorable events, good or bad, and they are ‘big’ simply because of the effect they had, and yet, as I have shown, there were some events which seemed small at the time but which had significant long-
But when you let your memory roam, I think there are also a hotchpotch of little things that were memorable even if they were small, and thus significant in the memory album. I remember when my first nephew was just a toddler and a group of us were out wandering in a wood and suddenly we were all captivated as this little person caught sight of a daisy – yes, that is all it was, a daisy, but it was obviously his first daisy and he was captivated by it and we were captivated by his amazement at this tiny – to us, ordinary – flower. I will never forget it.
The more you think, the more these past snippets of life come to the fore. I have just had the memory of an American voice on my phone one evening. To cut a long story short my son had been on an expedition to South Africa and had met a young person who this man back in California knew. Now to this day I am sure this American didn’t really know why he made the phone call. We chatted randomly it seemed for a few minutes and eventually he said, “So when are you coming out here then?” I thought this was just how Americans sought to be polite and so without any meaning I bantered back, “Oh, whenever you ask me,” to which he replied, “I’m asking you now!” “Oh my goodness, he’s serious”, I thought, which was how I first went to America to teach, some fifteen or more years ago, and why I must have been back there about ten times since. How that simple ‘small event’ phone call came about I still don’t know but it introduced me to a man who today I would call one of my best friends on the earth.
I could ramble on and on unearthing memories but how about you? How about either on screen or on a piece of paper seeing how big a list of ‘big events’ and then ‘little events’ you can dig up from your memory, a ‘painting by numbers’ or collage of your life. It could be a fun exercise. If you don’t I’ll ramble on and tell you what I felt when I first saw the Canadian Rockies or when…. OK. OK, I’ll stop. As always let’s see if I can find some light hearted or maybe even meaningful quotes to finish with.
“Things just happen, one after another. They don't care who knows. But history... ah, history is different. History has to be observed. Otherwise it's not history. It's just... well, things happening one after another.”
― Terry Pratchett
“Dates are convenient hooks on which we can hang our memories of events. But history is all about people -
― Joan Lowery Nixon,
“Everything is determined by your interpretation of what happens. You can change the meaning of what happens through your perception of events or memories.”
― Steven Redhead,
“Life's journey is one big path with series of events. All these events are connected.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita
“While the big events of our lives create the impetus for change, it is the moment-
― Karen Kimsey-
“Once upon a time, began the story of you. Many perilous, wonderful, harrowing, brilliant, delightful, profound things happened.
And yet—the most exciting twists and best turns are yet to come. And it absolutely does not matter how old or young you are.
Like a bright carpet of wonders, enjoy the unrolling of your story.”
― Vera Nazarian,
"If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me. "
“Have you ever thought that if one thing hadn't happened, a whole set of things never would have either? Like dominoes in time, a single event kicked off an unstoppable series of changes that gained momentum and spun out of control, and nothing was ever the same again. Don't ever doubt that a mere second can change your life forever.”
― Kimberly K. Jones