Mankind has an unwritten rule: in case of problem, kill it with fire.
Good memories are fond memories.
Bad memories are traumas. People are not fond of traumas.
We tend to dislike things that latch too hard on our brain. Tumors, bullets, eldritch tentacles — we usually need those off. But reckless excise attempts can, and often do nail the coffin. Or worse.
So there’s Option Α: we learn to live with the extra head weight. We do this one a lot.
GLaDOS (not Mark Twain) once wrote that Comedy = Tragedy + Time. And it’s true! If today you go to the Colosseum, a place where a lot of innocent blood was shed in Antiquity, you’ll see gladiator-clad actors ready to pose for and take funny pictures with eager tourists.
Which is fine. Until you realize that Auschwitz will be two thousand years old one day.
Luckily to us, 21st century-dwellers, cavemen invented coping. That wondrous stick we use to poke our mental shit with while mustering the effort required to pole vault it. Coping with traumas keeps us going because coping is a conscious effort. To cope is to constantly roll sanity checks that default over time to a 100% success rate because eventually, we move on.
Now try telling to an anxiety-ridden milquetoast that they’ll eventually move on.
Anxiety. You get it.
The heat death of the Universe happens before “eventually”. That’s a sanity check fail.
When we fail the sanity roll, things get fhtagn.
Here, we have two choices:
- Roll again, now also coping with the fact that you’ve failed to cope with your original trauma. You’re such a loser aren’t you? Each subsequent failure stacks, strains your mind further you just failed to fail. That’s how useless you are and progresses your descent into madness ad suicidium. No pressure.
- Surrender to Option Ω.
Option Ω is to kill it with fire.
Non-physical traumas are memories. And memories are as flammable as witches and national museums. Just fire and forget.
But eternal sunshining memories is a problem in itself because it lacks surgical precision. Our traumas often come from overall amazing experiences that ended sourly. Or just ended.
If a crocodile rips the dominant arm off of the best man at your wedding, what do you do? You can’t simply pretend your wedding never took place. Well you can, but it would be respectful to at least unequip your ring beforehand.
Likewise, if your partner, someone whose life was intertwined with yours for years, suddenly dumps you for some trendy artist, does it invalidate it all? Was your life — in plural — a massive lie for you to get rid of?
Everything ends. Some things just end more gracefully than others.
Mind arson seldom involves grace. The suppression of memories is the last, desperate line of defense against lunacy. And fire burns indiscriminately. Fire cremates.
When we think of our memory as a health resource, it’s easier to understand why some people cling to them so much while others just nuke’em. But its consumption is always unrestrained and wholly. You don’t get to choose what or how much you keep.
Being conscious about the process makes it bearable, but never fine. If anything, it terrifies me — the decision to input the launch codes and witness it all burn down is a deep, melancholic and fundamentally lone meditation on letting things go. Things that you really don’t want gone, but have no other option for because you’ve already pushed your luck to its extreme on the sanity rolls. Gaze at the big red button of doom and it gazes right back at you.
Most people that fail the sanity check do so because they aren’t ready to cope yet, but life forces them to. Depending on the person and trauma, it can take literal decades — if ever — for tragedy to become comedy. Meanwhile there’s work, family, friends, relationships, dying pets, so much going on. So much to lack. So much to grief.
The worst kind of grief is the grief of living things. Be it a memory, a person, a puppet, a job or a city. Until you’re able to cope, it hurts all the same. Badly.
Coping is a conscious effort. To cope is to constantly roll sanity checks that default over time to a 100% success rate because eventually, we move on.
Whenever I’m struggling to cope, my memory drifts in self-defense to the life-loving group of old chaps I once met in southern Poland. Some still had the numbers tattooed on their wrists.
It never fails to remind me on what a sanity check success truly is.