Today The Brass Rag got a “Like” from this blog. So I went there to say thanks for visiting us and, as usual, decided to poke around his site a bit first. In doing so, I found this post about memory, or rather about the idea that we don’t have any “real” memories, that everything we think we remember is in fact a falsehood created through an evil conspiracy between our egos and our minds in order to construct a past that never really happened. Or something like that.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I don’t remember everything clearly. Especially when I’ve been drinking. But am I willing to go along with the idea that nothing in my extensive mental filing cabinet actually happened? If that is true, then my husband never proposed, I never had two beautiful (yes, I know, that’s a subjective term. It’s also true. Deal.) daughters or sat for several hours in the waiting room while my granddaughter was being born. We never went to Disney (all three times), watched my daughters get dressed up for prom or my eldest’s wedding, never had an anniversary or a birthday. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m not even here.
Granted, the post appeared to be talking about bad memories. You know, where you mentally rehearse how you WISH a disagreement had gone (ie: you won) compared to how it actually went (ie: they won). And yes, the mind is a powerful entity, fully capable of constructing entire alternative universes out of nothing but air and soap bubbles. But even so, I’m pretty sure that car wreck I had when I was eighteen actually happened; I have the police reports to prove it. Plus, I learned never to push down on the accelerator when the light is already yellow. Truth be told, I do plenty of that rehearsing thing too, but I don’t try and fool myself that it actually happened the way I wish it did. I think they call that being delusional. And I’m not delusional. Mostly.
Admittedly, memory is not 100% reliable. Any cop who has dealt with an eye witness can tell you that. But neither can it be discounted as mere mental gymnastics. People who come back from a war zone with post traumatic stress disorder can explain that one to you. To say that memory is not real is to dismiss their pain as a self inflicted wound, and to steal from them an important method of healing. It’s rather like telling a man having a heart attack to take two aspirin and call you in the morning. Telling the problem it isn’t real won’t make him any less dead come daylight.
Like all of our abilities, mental and physical, memory is a tool. As such it can serve, guide and protect us or be manipulated to promote negativity and darkness. The choice, as they say, is ours.