“Don’t’ look back,” Negro League baseball great Sachell Paige once said. “Something might be gaining on you.” Paige played most of his prime in the Negro Leagues, at a time when baseball was segregated and blacks weren’t allowed to play Major League ball. He eventually did break the color barrier and, at 42, became the oldest pitcher in the Major Leagues.
While I have the utmost respect for Mr. Paige and all he accomplished, I have to disagree with him a bit. I think a periodic look backwards is both beneficial and stimulating. Years ago, when I used to enter an occasional 5k race, I would periodically glance back over my shoulder to see who was coming to pass me up. Most of the time it would be a female runner, and I would spend the next several blocks trying to maintain my pace so I wouldn’t get left too far behind. I accepted the fact that the girls were faster runners than I was. After all, none of them had to drag as much weight as I had over the course. Besides, getting passed by a pretty girl in shorts wasn’t such a bad thing. But I didn’t look back quite so much during those instances.
Perhaps the adage of not looking back is tied to the Biblical parable of Lot’s wife glancing back at the city of Sodom, despite the admonishment by the angels not to do so. As the story goes, she was transformed into a pillar of salt. Perhaps the lesson in that case was meant to be, once you turn away from the sordid side of things, you shouldn’t look back with regret.
However, sometimes looking back isn’t such a bad thing. It can give you a sense of accomplishment reviewing your efforts and see how far you’ve come. It can also show you that you’re on the wrong track and need to make some changes. In any case, Don’t Look Back could be a dynamite title for a mystery story.