Wallace Stegner’s 1979 novel “Recapitulation” (Penguin, 1997 paperback edition) is an extremely introspective story about an extremely successful man who visited his childhood home and gained understanding of how his life had been shaped by events “seemingly remote and inconsequential”. Certainly the episodes that shaped his life during his youth were remote in time, but probably not inconsequential. I found the story both fascinating and depressing! The basic concept of Recapitulation as a way for the past to inform the future struck a chord, not to be mistaken as an impersonal history lesson but as an analysis of how past shaped and can shape future.
Recapitulation is a form of feedback, informing our current state with a comprehension of the past developments that led to it, producing maturation whether beneficial or not.
Other definitions (www.thefreedictionary.com/recapitulation) characterize the term in a number of ways that also may be usefully applied to a life experience feedback loop:
- music: “…repetition of themes produced earlier, especially when one is composing the final part of a movement”;
- history: “…infolding of events from simple to more complex levels”;
- music: “…a self-contained part of a larger composition.”
We may know or discover that some of the goals, values, ideas and experiences of the past may have been ill-conceived, wrong-headed, poorly executed, or negatively impacted by forces outside of our control. Those often-heard judgements are ways in which “error” and “misdirection” have crept into our lives? On the other hand, many of our goals, values, ideas and experiences are clearly treasures, sometimes hidden and needing a “reopening” to add greater worth to our current endeavors.
Don’t get “hung up” on the past, but don’t write it off, either! Don’t even get defensive about it, but don’t engage in hubris, either! Instead, use it to reconcile and renew:
- Review the past, the journey and your current position,
- Analyze values and Passions!
- Identify errors – where did things go off-course?
- Identify successes – trail markers to revisit, and from which to move forward;
- Take accountability for the path to date and for your current position.