The Persistence of Memory

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. ┬áLike old newspapers, they sit inside us unread, outdated, and collecting dust.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.

Yes.

But once you’ve read the newspaper, for gods sake throw it away.

 

Ownership is Illusion

Ownership is a game we play.

And like any other game, a glance outside of the game board breaks the illusion’s grasp on us. Consciousness of our own deaths reveal ownership as what is is; the fleeting and largely arbitrary positions of objects in the world we have conceptualized.

When looked at any scale besides that of a projected human lifetime (funny how we always project our own so far out!) the idea of possession, and the necessary ego identification it requires, is ridiculous.

The mansion is to the millionaire what the electron is to the atom.

It will not be held long. Soon it will vanish, on to another position. And even stranger; at a closer level of analysis, can the mansion be said to exist? Can the electron?

But to reject all objets and live as a hermit is far too easy a way out. That is merely trading one identity for another. More than likely, the hermits lack of objects will be clung to and identified with to the same degree as the mansion.

So what then? What do we have to do?

To live our lives with awareness that ownership is only a game. The objects around us have nothing to do with who we are. Here today, gone tomorrow. To lend out even an ounce of your soul in identification with an object is to cheapen your being, and devalue your life.

For what will you be when the possessions go away?

What will your possessions be once you’re gone?

Atoms sitting in empty rooms, I suppose. Not even there when no one’s looking.

And as for you; who knows?

But you will not be here, on this plane, in any condition to own things.

Not that you ever were.

Ownership is an illusion. A game.

Feel free to play. Enjoy without expecting victory. Because death waits at the end to collect all points, all trophies. Everything turns to dust.

But you can smile, if you knew all along that they were dust to begin with.