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You Can’t See That Again

September 13, 2016

Mr Mickelson, my 5th grade teacher walked to the drinking fountain in our classroom at Lakes Elementary. He took a drink of water and then walked back to the front of the class. 

What I’ve just done can never be repeated. Even if I try to exactly retrace my steps, you will have moved. The planet has moved. In fact, there are countless things that will never again be aligned as they were at the exact moment I took that drink.

After 40 years, I have no idea what lesson he was teaching. But, I remember the lesson I took from it. 

You can’t go home again.

Even if you physically go to the house, the people are different. The time is different. You are different. It’s constantly changing. And thereby being new again.

And yet, the ancient Isrealite King Soloman tell us,

There’s nothing new under the sun. 

Ecclesiastes 1:9

So, which is it? Is every moment new or is nothing new?

Last weekend I took a backpacking trip through Utah’s High Unita mountains. The views were spectacular. The trailhead is about 40 miles east of Salt Lake City. It’s 25 miles from Kamas, the nearest town. From the trailhead we hiked two miles to Long Lake. “Remote” is a pretty good description. It’s easy, hiking through the pines and over the granite mountains, to imagine what it was like for the first people to walk these trails. 

And yet, the trail that we are hiking isn’t a natural trail. Everywhere is evidence that it was purposefully built. It has steps cut in to climb over the rocks. It has rocks strategically placed to funnel runoff away from the trail to avoid washouts. It had trail markers. There’s even an elevation marker at the highest elevation: Mount Watson, 11, 527 feet above sea level. 

The feeling of being the first to see it is illusionary. And before the trail makers, were the early explorers. Before them were the Native Americans. The spot I’m standing on; the view that I’m enjoying, has been enjoyed countless times before. I’m neither the first nor the last. I’m simply one more in a long line of people willing to brave the elevation to enjoy this view. It doesnt’ diminish the view. It doesn’t even diminish the pleasure. How selfish would it be to crave exclusive access to this beautiful area?

So, there is nothing new. None of us truly get to be “the first”? 

Not quite.

I went and picked peaches yesterday. It’s the season in Utah. We told the kids that if they would pick for 10 minutes, we’d then go out for ice cream as a family. Here’s one of the peaches. 

And here is the opportunity to truly be a pioneer. No one else has EVER seen the inside of this peach. 

I’m the first (And since I’m eating it right after posting this, I’ll be the last.) Each time you crack an egg, cut open an apple, or slice up a watermelon, you are the very first to see that sight. 

Food is easy. People are hard. You’ll meet someone today that you’ve never met before. You won’t be the first person to meet them. . .well, unless you’re a doctor delivering a baby. In that case, wish the parents congratulations. For the rest of us, we are simply one more in a long line of people that will interact with that person. And for you, it’s the very first time. How will that person remember you? Perhaps they won’t even think of you at all. We all pass hundreds (thousands?) of people on the freeway daily. The goal is to be unmemorable. 

But, what about the checker at the grocery store? The server in the restaurant? The flight attendant? You have the opportunity to shape that first, and perhaps only encounter. Make it a good impression. Even with members of your family, like my 5th grade teacher explained, you can never reproduce, or recapture the next interaction you have with them. You are really meeting everyone for the first time. Make it a good meeting. What you’ve done will never again be able to be repeated. 

(After the signature block is the entire passage from Soloman’s poem in Eccesiastes Chapter 1.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 


One generation passeth away, 
And another generation cometh: 
But the earth abideth for ever.

The sun also ariseth,
And the sun goeth down,
And hasteth to his place where he arose.

The wind goeth toward the south,
And turneth about unto the north;
It whirleth about continually,
And the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

All the rivers run into the sea;
Yet the sea is not full;
Unto the place from whence the rivers come,
Thither they return again.

All things are full of labour;
Man cannot utter it:
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.

The thing that hath been,
It is that which shall be;
And that which is done is that which shall be done:
And there is no new thing under the sun.

Is there any thing whereof it may be said,
See, this is new?
It hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:4-10

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