At the Mercy of Mnemosyne

The end of February always brings a certain kind of sadness to me: sharp, weighty and wordless like a falling dagger to the chest, hammering through the flesh and beating my heart to death. Out of all the months in the year, February is the most difficult to say goodbye to, because the farewell only acknowledges the arrival of a new month, my birth month, and that for me is more than terrifying.

I’m not afraid to age. I’m not oblivious of the fact that I should be thankful for another year that is added into my life. But still, I am scared. I am scared of the striking sensation that time is passing; that I am sinking further and further away from my memories and that just a few more years, all of these memories shall completely abandon my mind and none of them shall be left behind to remind me of who I was, of the kind of life I led and the kind of people I met along the road.

I’m not trying to say I know what’s going to happen. All I know is that each year is a magnet in reverse, pulling me away from everything that is solid in life and stretching my soul a million miles beyond the core of my identity, until I no longer know who I am or where I’m from, or what I’m doing in this lonely surface of the planet. I am reminded of a foreign word.

Zenosyne

As more of your day repeats itself, you begin to cast off dead weight and feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity, the ballast of memories you hold onto, until it all seems to move under its own inertia.

So even when you sit still, it feels like you’re running somewhere. And even if tomorrow you will run a little faster, and stretch your arms a little farther, you still feel the seconds slipping away as you drift around the bend.

I find myself screaming for the goddess of memory.

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7 thoughts on “At the Mercy of Mnemosyne

  1. That’s a thought-provoking post. Some of my happy childhood memories are still there but they’re hazy. I’m afraid that several years later, I will forget about them forever, which would be sad…

    On the other hand, Harry Lorayne, one of the greatest memory experts alive, lamented the fact that he can’t forget! It’s not arrogance since I could understand him. I also practice memory techniques so I know the methods involved. If you really utilize those techniques to the fullest, it’s possible to not forget the things that you have memorized for a very long time. At the age of 90, he can still vividly recall the order of the cards he memorized 50 years ago, etc. He personally told me that he would want a way to “delete” some of those useless memories to free up his mind…

    I only use those memory techniques for memorizing facts but some people have used them for memorizing their lives which includes even the most trivial things like what they ate and the weather.

    Anyway, I have kept a journal of my daily life since I was 9 (I wish that I have done it earlier) so I have a record that can trigger those foggy memories in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that is some super power! Imagine being able to remember the most miniscule details of your life. I’d like to say it is impressive, but not being able to forget could be very frustrating too, right?

      Regarding deletion of memories, I came across an article once about the possibility of having certain memories in your brain erased, so much like that brain process in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s very interesting to think that on some level, we are actively subjecting the mind to brain damage (because technically, memory deletion is brain damage) but still allow the mind to operate normally.

      Can you provide one memory technique you use? I’ve always been fascinated with people who can carry these techniques well. I have tried some of them in the past (especially at school) but none seemed to work on a long-term basis.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. While there are memories worfh remembering, some are not. Aexander Aitken possessed a powerful memory (for example, he memorized the entirety of Aeneid during high school) and was considered one of the best human calculators in the world during his time. However, his inability to forget the events of World War I caused him to suffer depression throught his life. He said that he can remember all the events that he witnessed vividly, not only the visual memories, but also the sounds, the feeling, the taste and smell. It’s as if he was there every time he recalls the events.

        Many scientist these days have theorized that our conciousness is mathematical in nature and hence, quantifiable. There may be a time when we can just “back up” our memories or even our conciousness to a computer. This means that people can become immortal to a degree. If this can be done in the funture, I think that it would do more harm than good. Imagine people like Hitler and Bin Laden who could live indefinitey…

        The one that we use for memorizing large list of items is quite complicated (it’s called peg system, a more advanced one is called SEM3), so I’ll just give you 2 of the simplest ones – the link system and the method of loci.

        Link system is basically “linking” the objects that you want to memorize using memorable visual image. The more ridiculous the visual image is, the better.

        However, the method of loci (aka memory palace or journey method) is more powerful. To remember an ordered list of items (eg. step by step processes, grocery items), you would have to associate them to a known location to you like your house. Orators back in the days don’t read their speeches on paper, they memorized them instead. That’s why we have the phrase “in the first place”. Fun fact: in China, government officials today also memorize their speeches.

        Here’s a link for more:

        http://mt.artofmemory.com/wiki/Method_of_Loci

        Liked by 1 person

        1. What torture it must be for people to not be able to forget. It reminds me of a beautiful passage from Nietzche’s Beyond Good and Evil (1886): “Blessed are the forgetful for they get the better even of their blunders.”

          Also another thing which may be worthy to consider is the idea of involuntary memory. No doubt, stored memories are useful when we can use them at our disposal. But it is an entirely different matter when memories take hold of our conscious mental process. Marcel Proust explores this idea in this seven-volume mega novel, In Search of Lost Time (1913).

          Concerning the possibility of “backing up” our consciousness to an external storage, yes it is completely terrifying to imagine just how far human beings can go when they are provided with limitless means for action. I think it was around 2014 when mainstream production released films which touch this kind of theme (e.g. Her, Lucy, Transcendence, Interstellar)

          It also makes me wonder, aren’t we, in the Age of Information and Technology, to a certain degree is already transmitting our consciousness to a secondary storage via the Internet, and in turn creating a kind of Artificial Intelligence through the collection of data from the entire cyber space? I am thinking of bots of magnitude proportions, bots that are somehow capable of going beyond their programmed function.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Indeed…

            The works of Nietzsche are interesting btw. It’s just unfortunate that the Nazis had found a way to twist some of his works to fit their propaganda and agenda. This adversely affected his reputation. It’s nice to see that more and more are now studying his works once more.

            Yes, I agree that in a way, we are transmitting a part of our conciousness via the internet. Some even hypothesized that the internet itself may become sentient someday (or is it already? 🙂 )

            AI is getting better everyday. Google’s search engine AI for instance is gradually getting smarter. The AI employed in Wolfram Alpha is very impressive as well.

            Some time ago, I’ve watched a series of documetaries on Discovery Channel called “Through the Wormhole” narrated by Morgan Freeman. One of the episodes showed a humanoid robot with an intriguing AI.

            I found it on YT though it’s from a different show. Here’s the link:

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Some ascribe the blame on Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, for Nietzsche’s influence and inclusion on the propaganda of the Nazi Party. This is an interesting point because apparently, Nietzsche never explicitly implied in any of his works that the Germanic Aryan race is the master superior race, nor there was any particular intent for the elimination of those who do not participate in this superiority (such as in the execution of the Holocaust).

            It’s even interesting to note that Nietzsche was actually critical of the European morality, as was expressed in his Genealogy of Morals (1887).

            Oh yes, the one with Morgan Freeman. I think I came across this series once but was not able to finish it. I’ll check this link tonight (and thank you for sending lots of very helpful links. Clearly, I am learning so much from your insights)

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Yes, his sister was also at fault here to a certain extent.

            I have read and studied all of Nietzsche’s works and there was no direct reference of anti-semitism anywhere. In fact, he’s strongly against it.

            You’re welcome.

            Liked by 1 person

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