Remember Part I
Forget About Everything
(Part I of III)
When it comes to remembering; a basic knowledge of the complex systems at work in the human brain would lead most people to the conclusion that there is absolutely no such thing as ‘objective memory’. We cannot remember things as they were — there are simply too many variables at play.
Let’s take an example:
Wanda (a creative) and Lamont (an accountant) are at their companies Christmas party. Neither of them drinks alcohol (that’s a good start at least) and they’ve both had the exact same amount of water and canapés. They’re sitting at a table, having a light-hearted chat and intermittently watching their colleagues bust shapes on the dance floor. Victor is really going for it (shake it, baby!). At around 11pm Lamont leaves the party to get back home to his wife. Wanda leaves shortly after to meet her girlfriend at a friend of theirs house before she too heads home for the night.
The next day at work, Wanda, Lamont and Victor are catching up in the kitchen. Victor (who works in sales) is chirpy as ever. Lamont is fairly quiet as he’s under a lot of pressure to cut costs, and Wanda’s latest piece of work just got picked up for a big ad campaign, so she’s in a pretty good mood. The topic of conversation shifts to the previous night’s party. Wanda compliments Victor for his wicked dance moves, telling him she watched him all night. Victor blushes and tells them that he doesn’t particularly remember dancing that much. Lamont smiles. Victor leaves the room and Lamont tells Wanda that he couldn’t have embarrassed himself as Victor did, but that he commends him for not caring about what others think. Wanda too commends him but says she didn’t think he embarrassed himself at all and that she thinks the way he dances is amazing. Lamont struggles to comprehend how she can think this; to his recollection, Victor was all over the place and had no form or poise whatsoever. Shocking. Lamont tells Wanda that it was a ‘good’ night either way, but to his surprise, Wanda says her’s was just ‘alright’. They leave the room and go back to work.
So, what the hell’s going on here? Was it a good night? Did Victor dance a lot? Furthermore, is he actually a good dancer or not?! What made Wanda’s night just ‘alright’?
The answer is:
There is no answer
Was it a good night?
Perhaps. But for who? What makes a good night? Does that change? Was it good at the time? Was it good by comparison to other nights? Will a bad night that was become a good night in the future? Will I tell one person it was good and another it wasn’t? The truth is, all of these things are possible, and the way that some psychologists theorise remembering suggests that each time I retell the story I actually alter the memory. So when I retell it for the 5th time, I’m actually retelling what I remember about the 4th time I told it. Indeed, even how I’m feeling when I’m retelling it affects how it’s remembered. Perhaps Wanda did have a ‘good’ night but then had a barmy with her girlfriend and she’s talking about that when she says it was just ‘alright’. Maybe Lamont has a very different opinion to Wanda of what classifies ‘good’ dancing. Maybe Victor dances for hours on end every weekend and a little hour at the party was hardly even a warm-up for him! Perhaps he was just too drunk to remember.
What a mess!
The point is. Well…
There is no point
Except perhaps this.
Everything about myself, every single part of my identity, I have to remember. I have to remember that I’m a man, that I’m 30, that I’m a singer and writer and a whole host of other things I identify with. These are all stories I’ve either been told about or created for myself. They are constructs. They are nothing more than words and words that sometimes I identify stronger with and sometimes much, much less. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a 20-year-old me and sometimes I see a tired looking 40-year-old version. Sometimes I see no age at all. Sometimes I see a very ‘masculine’ man and sometimes I see a totally androgynous figure. So which am I?
In those moments I am forced to pick the words (from a very small sample) that represent exactly what I am or feel. I need to be able to tell the world that ‘THIS IS WHO I AM’ because that’s my human capital. In our present world that is how my value is determined. By who I am. But the problem is, I feel different every day. Every minute. Every moment in fact! None of those words can I truly say represents me at all times. Words, by their very nature, are limited.
I, and you, are not.
’Til next time,