The Tragedy of Human Memory
Koh Jia Jun
577

Your essay was provocative. I found myself thinking about a time when I followed my memory. Back onto a trail leading from the parking lot on PV Blvd West near San Vicente lighthouse, along the coastline of the Pacific, toward Trump’s golf course until you get to the large cavelike opening, where people sometimes play.

It’s fun to play with the tide there, how high will it be today? Which determines whether or not you can climb down the bedrock outcropping and actually walk up into the cave to nowhere (because it’s only 20 meters deep, reaching almost to the street we drove on to get to the scenic overlook parking lot). Hear that sound that is at once familiar to you, the crunch crunch crunchy sound the pebbles make as each wave recedes.

The thoughts about my memory of this place are vivid; a scene like this, at the place I tried to describe, occurred in my life four or five years ago, in fact.

But the memory lasted a fraction of a second or for two seconds — I don’t remember — it rushed me to the feeling I get in a dream, of following a design-by-memory.

Try to create an experience in your life, or just the thought about an experience, but something has gone wrong; you find yourself on a bridge made of spiderweb twenty feet above the cave on the old walking path, and you crash to the ground of pebbles as a wave comes in. (It was as though the time machine was off point by 10 meters!) You have to swim onto the pebbly shore of the small cove — but that’s fine, people launch kayaks there, sometimes. It’s not dangerous to me because I’m not afraid of the Pacific Ocean.

The water is always cold, usually in the sixties even in summer — but I’ll be out, done swimming, in ten more strokes. I guess my mobile phone is destroyed. We’re still one or two iterations before “waterproof” is standard.

What your essay reminded of are dreams of the past. We can go there in a dream, or in reality. But not exactly there; sometimes it kills or injures us, the trying to build plans upon echoes of our memories; mostly we wake up, and think, wow, that was a fucked up dream about a place I love, where I used to live. I can never go back there.

You cannot recreate the past, can you? Only create the future. Base it on your expectations and dreams, but as great expectations CAN lead to great disappointments (they don’t HAVE to), beware the expectation.

Thanks, buddy! Stranger. Your essay provoked a second-long thought from me — it felt powerful, but now it is gone.

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