Forgetting by not re-visiting

12 03 2010

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I usually work in twos.

That is two events need to happen in order for me to decide that a topic is interesting enough to me for me to write about and I usually have two things to say in a “…and another thing” kind of style.

This reinforcement is itself the theme of this blog and it does follow my rule of twos!

As an adherent of the Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment I follow the path of “letting go”. This is summed up by a line I read a couple of days ago, “If we choose to forget the wrongs of the past they will lose their significance”. Essentially if you don’t remember something it can’t bother you.

It made me think about the act of forgetting. I passed 50 a couple of weeks ago and forgetting things is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life. Just ask my son!

This was my first nudge towards the blog.

The second nudge to write came when I was tidying the walk in cupboard in my office. When I say tidying I was moving stuff about in order to find some papers that I knew had been ‘filed safely’ somewhere in there. As a consequence ofthis random moving of boxes the cupboard was tidier when I left that it was when I entered. I didn’t find the papers but I did find my wedding album.

I was 22 when i got married and had met my husband when I was a few months past my 17th birthday. Two things (again two things) struck me; firstly we were just children and secondly how much in love we were. I know this to be true but for all practical purposes I have forgotten about it.

Because we are no longer together I have no-one to talk to about shared events. The wedding album is in the back of a cupboard and while I do have a few photographs in a tin of holidays in Venice and Dunbrovnik and the like I seldom think of them and don’t talk to anyone else about them as they ae of no interest to anyone except me. Have you ever met anyone who is interested in holiday snaps other than the people in them? Had we still been together then there would have been lots of conversations starting “remember when….?”

My point is that the act of returning to past events reinforces the memory; gives it significance. It is not that I have made a conscious decision to erase thoughts from my memory but the fact of not returning to them, not reinforcing them, has caused them to vanish.

In fact I was watching a film the other evening (Jumper-it’s terrible, don’t bother) which had a scene set in the Coliseum. I know that I have visited there, I probably have photographs somewhere, but I have no real memory of it other than I know I have been. You can put part of that down to my age but I’m sure that the greater reason is that I haven’t had that ” remember when…?” conversation about this trip to Rome.

The non-attachement I practice includes the act of ‘letting go’ of past wrongs as a way to leave behind emotional baggage. I can now see that actively choosing to forget allows events to lose their significance but also failing to reinforce them has the same effect.

Revisiting old memories reinforces their significance. The act of not returning-not picking at old wounds, if you like-also strips them of their significance. And once an event becomes meaningless it will be forgotten.

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