Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the stars? they watch you when you sleep and they said that you are courageous. it's true.

This article is about memory. About an older woman (AJ) who remembers all the days of her life in cinematic detail and a man (EP) who can't recall the happenings of a just-elapsed moment. It's about how our brain stores the moments of what was so we can better deal with what is and what will be. It's also about how we revere memory for the mark it makes of our intelligence, for how it demonstrates our ability to hold on to that which has vanished in time.

EP has the advantage of being constantly happy: he has no reference to past disappointments to justify worry and bears no memory upon which to build future outcomes, hopes or fears. AJ has the grace of living a life in constant connection between what has been and what is. The extremes of their memories makes me think of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This choice we could have to erase from our minds the relationships that move us most, or to keep the pieces that have reshaped them in loss and love's wake.

I've been preoccupied lately with memory. With the edifice it sets upon life. With the way it can be distorted without our even discerning it. How it can be our guide to what can be, or make us miss possibilities with a different destiny than the cloistered past can foresee. How so much of life and the memories we make of it are set before we are conscious of the repercussions for our hopes and perspectives. How what has been can hide in our subconsciousness only to find contours when we are confronted with a mirrored experience.

It makes me think of my sister. She has a staggering memory for when we were young, down to outfit colors and styles, snippets of conversations and TV show plots that never made a mark on my mind. I envy her her ability to recall so much where I recall so little. And yet, her memories are darker than mine. She remembers fights, flaws and stings better than I do. She remembers our parents in tougher details. So I wonder if, like EP, my recollections are polished by the happiness that comes from more imperfect reminiscence, my ignorant recall's bliss.

I try to be more wary of my memory now. I know it can distort as much as illuminate the present and the possible. This uncanny ability we all seem to have to fix an outcome merely by affixing our fears and worries to it. Merely by our knowledge of what was instead of any gift we have for envisioning.

Memory should be protection, not something that precludes us from outcomes and options. And yet I know I use retrospection to draw corners around my life and how I love people. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to show faith in me or my future for the borders to break. And sometimes it takes a mirror of where I've been for me to perceive that life is less about edges and more about standing at the brink of the sea. Where the waves reach and crest and retreat in repetition like the future and the present and the past. Where the lift and fall of the blue is the way our hearts can open if we let memory be the horizon instead of the sand-filled shore.