One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.
If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered. How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but mainly to ourselves. Your memory is a monster; you forget it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you. I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday. To forget is the secret of eternal youth. One grows old only through memory. There’s much too little forgetting.
Memory is the great deceiver. Perhaps there are some individuals whose memories act like tape recordings, daily records of their lives complete in every detail, but I am not one of them. My memory is a patchwork of occurrences, of discontinuous events roughly sewn together: The parts I remember, I remember precisely, whilst other sections seemed to have vanished completely. People always talk like there’s a bright line between imagination and memory, but there isn’t, at least not for me. I remember what I’ve imagined and imagine what I remember. I think people would be happier if they admitted things more often. In a sense we are all prisoners of some memory, or fear, or disappointment – we are all defined by something we can’t change.
Memory is a part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our hearts pumping. It is memory that reminds our bodies to work, and memory that reminds our spirits to work to: it keeps us who we are.The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write down every word discovered in the space of memory. Some things have been lost forever, other things will perhaps be remembered again, and still other things have been lost and found and lost again. There is no way to be sure of any this. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it. The memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time.
People have an annoying habit of remembering things they shouldn’t. The degree of slowness is directionally proportional to the intensity of memory. The degree of speed is directionally proportional to the intensity of forgetting. You can lose your way groping among the shadows of the past. It’s frightening how many people and things there are in a man’s past that have stopped moving. The living people we’ve lost in the crypts of time sleep so soundly side by side with the dead that the same darkness envelops them all. Later on in life, you expect a bit of rest, don’t you? You think you deserve it. I did, anyway. But then you begin to understand that the reward of merit is not life’s business.
As we grow older, we no longer know whom to awaken, the living or the dead. Memory warps time, as it does the sights and sounds and smells of reality; for what shapes it is emotion, which can twist what seems clear, just as the surface of a pond seems to bend the stick thrust into the water. In our endeavors to recall to memory something long forgotten, we often find ourselves upon the very verge of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to remember. Believe that you’ve had most of your important memories by the time you’re thirty. After that, memory becomes water overflowing into an already full cup. New experiences just don’t register in the same way or with the same impact. What is the past but what we choose to remember? It’s strange how memory gets twisted and pulled like taffy in its retelling, how a single event can mean something different to everyone present.
We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost. I always think everything is going to last forever, but nothing ever does. In fact nothing exists longer than an instant except the thing that we hold in memory. In the Land of Memory the time is always Now.In the Kingdom of Ago, the clocks tick… but their hands never move.There is an Unfound Door and memory is the key which opens it.
As we go through the flightiness of time, dazed by the inebriety of our mental time voyage, we must hit the brakes, sometimes, and not shy away from questioning ourselves, when we wade through the tanning mist of our memory that embroiders our thoughts or distorts them.
A clear conscience is the surest sign of a bad memory.