November 13, 2005

People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children.
- Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes)

Always, I seem to be the only one who has absolutely no desire to repeat any day of my life. Not aversion, just, well, this is a new day: why repeat what is gone? I don't see what is over through sepia-coloured glasses, and so I have no nostalgia in me for what is past. I deal, rather, with the now. Past has made me what I am, future is branched potential. Now is where I exist, where my choices exist. I do value the understanding born of memory and experience, understanding which is the foundation of what I am and of what will be; and which will thus (I hope!) help me to make my choices well in the future, some suggested spectre of consequences past suggesting possible (but not certain!) similar consequences in future given a close-to-identical choice-making environment: but understanding is not clinging to a thing already frozen and drifting away in time.

(It is reported, in the Platonic dialogues and through scraps of information elsewhere, that Socrates had a very poor opinion of reading. He claimed that the ability to read destroyed reliance on memory and consequently memory itself, since one could always look up again what one needed to "remember", thus undercutting the need for memory. And it is true enough that the feats of memory common to many members of illiterate cultures dwarf all our sophisticated information-retrieval systems. After all, why remember, when Blackberry lets us always Google?)

While re-living a memory could readily harden us ever more solidly within its mould: would re-living make the memory itself, positive or negative, any stronger? Weaken it rather, I should think: call it the difference between having and not having. Things never to be had again are re-created in our minds, ultimately to become something they never were; but more: the awareness that something one had deemed permanently inaccessible -- and thus remembered perhaps the more intensely -- has suddenly regained accessibility. Never mind that it is only for one revisiting: the rules have been broken once, and so now carry the possibility of being broken again. Part of the treasure of the moment is its uniqueness: for it to acquire the illusion of accessibility dilutes that uniqueness.

Treasure the memories, the good and the bad ... and know when to release.

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