“You gotta let go of that stuff from the past ’cause it just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.”
– Po, Kung Fu Panda 2
Happy New Year, my wonderful audience! I hope it is a good one for us all!
This quote is one of those that is pretty much perfect for a new year celebration, a time where we reflect on and celebrate the past, the present, and the future.
When Po says this, he is speaking to his enemy, Lord Shen.
Shen has tried to know and alter the future, but all he’s done is become a prisoner of the past, his past, which he created with his own hands. Or feathers, I suppose. After all he’s tried to do, he has succeeded only in holding on to his pain, letting it consume him as he burns the world around him. Even his great ambitions and inventions have all come to nothing, everything he’s made now lying broken and in ruin around him. He has, quite simply, failed. And thus he asks, not really wanting to understand but he must ask anyway out of sheer shock, how Po managed to overcome his pain and find the strength of inner peace. The above quote is part of Po’s answer.
For all that Shen tried to master his own fate, he failed to grasp this basic concept: all he had to do was choose differently. That is the power of the present.
Oh, the past may have had the power to shape the present, and multitudes have quivered in the shadow of the future, but it is now – the present, today, this very hour, this exact moment – which holds the greatest power. Whatever has happened in the past, now is when we can leave it all behind. Whatever path we have been on for our entire lives, now is the time when we can depart from it and make a new path for ourselves. Whatever hurts we have known, now is the time which heals us, moment by moment by moment. Whatever burdens we have carried on our souls, now is the time where we can begin to let them go. And whatever doom the future holds for us, now is the hour of hope.
I want to make one important clarification. It’s an obvious one, to me, but better to say it.
Letting go of the past does not mean forgetting it. Neither does it mean failing to learn from it. Indeed, there is no moving beyond the past without learning from it, and that inherently involves remembering it. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, which is exactly the opposite of what we want.
It does not mean forgetting how we have been hurt, or brushing aside the hurts that we have done others. It means accepting that it is what it is, and moving on to do something better. The past will not be changed. It can only be learned from. The application of those lessons is what will make for a better future.
Letting go of the past means letting go of the pain which haunts us long after any injury. That is the only way we can clear our vision and make a different choice.
Ultimately, our choices are the only things which matter. Not what we have, what we gain, or what we lose. Not what happens to us. Only what we do with it. That is what stays with us forever and determines who we are.
The most important choice is the next one.
Or, rather, this one, the one you make right now.