memory maintenance

Published: essays

thoughts on memories over time

an abandoned car

Once you realize how fragile and limited a person's memory actually is a lot of things begin to make sense, and many more take on a slightly unnerving air. Just think of how many examples in everyday life you hear of someone talking about how they've forgotten something they couldn't possibly have, something they saw or experienced many times over in their day to day life at one point. Just rubbed away. It is really something to be grateful for in some cases, but at the same time should be abjectly terrifying. You get bits and pieces of things as you go. You can't even remember writing something from a few years ago, even if you can see a reflection of yourself from then within it. Really, writing as a process is just the capturing and further refining of streams of consciousness from a certain point in your own life.

But when you think of this, and how easy it is to manipulate people into thought loops, and how fast it all fades from them, you realize that the pulsating external reminders of given things are the collective memory of society. The propaganda, the edifices of buildings, the advertising, this is how the world remembers things exist. Nothing more than that. All the tragedies of the past are worn away if not for these things. The best they can hope for is to be stashed away deep within the pages of well worn books and stuttery databases. Even tragedies that every single existing person lived through will swiftly fade if not refreshed at a constant pace.

This is why so many people have forgotten the events of even just a few years past. Collection and maintenance of memory puts you head and shoulders above almost the entirety of humanity, as sad as that is to say. The issue is that most people have had all their focus and willpower hijacked. There is no downtime with which it reflect and consider that which has come before. Only a constant and ever-illusory present. Even when forced away from such things, the addictions installed by the world at large will gnaw at these people. I don't deny that these things exist within myself as well.

The mind cannot comprehend of the full scope of it's own past in any meaningful way, let alone the world at large. To provide an innocuous example, otherwise, how could we ever get any entertainment from things we've seen before? It would immediately be a bore. The mechanism of memory itself, of recording some vague impression of the present moment, is quite possibly the most terrifying thing we face in our day to day lives. Yet no one really acknowledges this. We go from one moment to the next, sometimes forgetting even what it was we ate this morning or thought about whilst walking through the door. Somehow, we treat this as entirely normal.

I think barring truly impressive events, it is likely safe to treat everyone else's memory of you as quite faulty. Unless you made a truly terrible impression. Unfortunately this means that it is likely that only your worst and best impressions will last in anyone's memory over the course of years. Eventually everything else will fade.