experience vs. memory

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MamaT and i went to see eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, an event i will not soon forget. my review of this flawless film is posted over at popcorn critics. anyway, the movie refuses to stop making my brain tick. i mean, the movie was over four hours ago and i cannot stop thinking about it's main theme. which brings me to the following questions i've lifted from the book of questions, just for fun, for our fair readers:

if you could spend a year in complete and perfect happiness but afterward would remember nothing of the experience, would you do it?

which is more important: actual experiences or the memories that remain when the experiences are over?


I think it's a question that cannot be answered.
Because without the memories, you would be living in some sort of eternal present. And I think "living in the moment" is not all it's cracked up to be.

I am a great fan of Oliver Sacks' books. In his book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, he discusses the case of a patient who has a neurological problem that causes him to lose most of his memory--and it's a constantly ongoing issue. That is, he forgets continually, building no new memories. Dr. Sacks uses an analogy that has stuck in my head all these years: It is as if the man is walking across a bridge, and as he walks the bridge crumbles behind him. It leaves him isolated on a small point--unable to see forward to the future, which none of us can, but also unable to look backward in any meaningful way.

Reading the case study of this one man would convince you of the necessity of memory. While the man has learned to live with the condition with some degree of acceptance, he still knows there is something "not right." And Dr. Sacks portrays him as basically a lonely person.

In a large sense, we simply ARE what are memories are--good and bad. It is what makes us US. Without my memories and experiences (and memories are the only thing that makes the experiences still useful), how would I be Terry?

I thought it was interesting in the movie that they chose to focus on erasing people's BAD memories--making us buy in JUST FOR A SECOND to the "Yeah, I'd like to never remember that" idea. But then you realize that if you didn't remember the things that hurt, how would you guide your decisions in the future--not to hurt others, not to involve yourselves with the crazy-makers who will hurt YOU? Without the past, even the awful parts of it, we are doomed to even more pain. And in the movie to another erasure, and another, and another, and another. Just like they told us in biology, the pain response is necessary to survival. And I think that goes for mental anguish as well.

The task put before us is a delicate one. Live in today, not borrowing worry from tomorrow. Don't wallow in the past, making it MORE important than today. Balancing is difficult, but necessary.

What Terry said. I would not accept the offer. The only use for planned amnesia is surgery.

and thank heavens for that! i was so grateful for halcion when i had to have oral surgery!

What about dealing with false memories? I've read that memories can be planted and that sounds really scary to me.



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This page contains a single entry by smockmomma published on March 29, 2004 11:26 PM.

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