October 5, 2015

MOSKOWITZ | Another Year, Another Fall

Print More


The last couple of days in Ithaca have been pretty cold. It has reached the point where shorts and flip flops have become untenable and strolling outside into the morning air no longer feels warm and comforting.

Fall brings a lot of newness to the world. Cold air appears most obviously to chill our skin. Pants and heavy jackets emerge soon after to cover ourselves from those frigid attacks. Green and verdant leaves change to dark red hues or exploding oranges.

Every fall is different; every change in the world has its own intricate details. When I was younger, I would rake the leaves in my front yard into piles and jump into them. Some years the piles appeared as big as mountains. I could toss myself into the air and crash into a sea of color. Other years, I could only collect enough for a sad mound. I would still jump, but remained vigilant of whether I was throwing my body against the cold ground underneath.

That is not only difference that fall brings: It’s a new perspective on the world. As time passes, we live through numerous experiences, good and bad, illuminating and boring, and this brings us to a much different place. We survive grueling winters, rejuvenate in the spring and feel life more deeply in the long and hot summers. With each new experience, we see the world again with new energy.  Each new turn of the cycle brings us closer to some new idea we have about ourselves or the world around us. Fall seems to me about investigating the past, finding the difference and bringing that forward in our lives.

Yet not everything fits so neatly into that narrative. Change often arrives as a hammer. It serves to pound in new ideas and keep them in place. It ignores the sacrifice and almost treats it as inevitable. You must give up the old for the new. You can only have one perspective about the world.  

However, I do not see this at all. At the same time, I also do not believe we can or should prevent all change. Some change always occurs. We get older, we discover new things and we meet new people. We cannot control these things and we should not try. Perspective functions differently from the changing of fall. Unlike the cycle of the leaves or the cooling of the air, perspectives do not function linearly. We do not have to give up old ideas in order to form new ones.

All of our experiences, the places we have lived and the people we have met come together to form our perspective. When embracing the newness we feel in the fall, we should retain these old ideas. We probably have no choice. Our minds are made up of past experiences. Yet in other ways, I feel as though it is important to reflect on the past. When making a decision about something, we should think about how we would have thought about it one, five or even 10 years ago. A fresh perspective gives us insight, but so does the past. Experience brings wisdom.

In this way, when we see the changes of fall come around us, we should feel the cold air on our skin and remember the warmth. Our decisions, whether related to who we want to be or the relationships we want to develop or discard, should be made with every ounce of knowledge we can gleam from our lives. Looking back at the past is not just about learning from those experiences, but about embracing those old perspectives and finding a way to incorporate them into today’s life.