Thursday, April 16, 2015

Changing Memories

It struck me after yesterday's blog entry, how unreliable in many ways our memories of the past can prove.

So in that entry I was recalling events from a time nearly 60 years ago (early 1958) when I was 9 years of age.

One can validly question in such circumstances  the accuracy of the events mentioned especially where little substantiating evidence from the time has been recorded.

However the idea that an objective account can - or even should - be given is somewhat fanciful.

Thus when we recall any event from our past, essentially we are recreating that event in the light of our experience of the present moment. So the emphasis on particular aspects of the event and indeed the precise facts involved can undergo subtle change (influenced very much by development that has since unfolded). Therefore given the sufficient elapse of time, considerable variations in one's account can take place, even when one sincerely attempts to do so as accurately as possible.

In a way this can prove very liberating, for the meaning of events that have already happened and indeed those anticipated to happen in future, undergo continued evolution through the light of present experience. So along with St. Augustine, time truly amounts to memories with respect to the past and future that always necessarily unfold in the present moment.

Thus there is nothing bad in our past for example that cannot be rescued through its successful integration with experience in the present moment. Or as Don McLean says in his wonderful song "Crossroads"

"There is no need for turning back
For all roads lead to where I stand
And I know I've walked them all
No matter what I may have planned"

One could therefore argue that the true purpose of memory is - not so much to recall accurately the exact objective details of past events but rather - to recreate these events in such a manner that they become better integrated with subsequent life experience.

Then when this is successfully achieved, true meaning can then be found in all past - and anticipated future - events, through the present moment (which is continually renewed).

This ties in very well with the notion of how one can continually obtain enhanced experience of earlier stages (from the perspective of more advanced stages that have subsequently unfolded). However this requires that development itself proceeds in an increasingly mature and integrated fashion.

Where this is not the case, unfortunately the reverse can happen where for example one might continually return to an unhappy past event in an increasingly embittered fashion. Unfortunately in such circumstances, no healing power can be brought to such an event. Rather it can threaten to take over the present, trapping one in permanent misery.

So it should be clear from yesterday's account that this was not the voice of a 9 year old boy speaking. Rather it was - hopefully - that of a more mature adult, who now with the benefit of subsequent experience can invest these earlier events with a meaning that was not at all clear at the time they initially occurred.

Having said that, I have attempted (bearing in mind the qualifications made) to recollect these events as faithfully as possible..

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