Memories are weak materials in the process by which we construct our personalities.
If you wanted to construct a castle to withstand seige, would you use bricks of ice?
Would you build on shifting ground?
Better to let the ice melt and use the water for idle entertainent.
Memory would be a fine material indeed if we could trust ourselves to derive reasonable, self affirming meaning from the past. Unfortunatley, the process of evolution has rendered us excellent recollectors of the terrible, and it is usually by fear and pain that the past holds precenence in our minds.
We must be careful not to become hoarders of the past.
And just like those who hoard physical objects, the process of accumulation begins innocently enough. We keep happy memories as if they were trophies and diplomas hung up on the wall, there for us to glance at when the chaos becomes unbearable and say “Yes. Thats me!” Other memories we keep because we believe they might be useful. That there might be meaning and experience left to gain from them. Like old newspapers, they sit inside us unread, outdated, and collecting dust.
I read a story once about a hoarder who became trapped in her house, the stacks of newspaper having grown so high and so plentiful.
Theres a reason newspapers are sold for profit one day, and used to pack meat the next.
Their utility is in relevancy and timeliness.
But we cherish the old memories anyway, either addicted to our own victimhood and in need of reaffirmation of that identity, or else hoping for the sad, strange high that nostalgia gives.
In strange contradiction to our tendency to best remember particularly sharp instances of pain or fear, in remembering periods that make up a category of many consecutive memories, we look back fondly on what in the moment was misery.
High School is a common nostalgia trap. Our minds somehow trick us into believing the structure and order enforced by the institution were somehow the bedrock of a kind of constrained freedom more rewarding than anything we experience in adulthood.
All of this stands in perverse contrast to the rather self evident principle by which all good lives are organized:
That the future be an improvement on the present through our actions in the now.
Of course, to create a better future, you will say we must reflect upon our mistakes in the past.
But once you’ve read the newspaper, for gods sake throw it away.