I’ve been thinking a lot lately about memory. In overhearing a conversation about a past incident, I found it interesting that one person was so sure of the facts, the other not—at least not the “facts” the first person remembered. I, of course, also had that particular memory, and mine being the only accurate one! was different from both. But isn’t that the case, that what is stored in our brain cells, to us is the gospel truth, when, in fact, the actual truth might, and probably is, an amalgamation of all the facts of the real incident.
That only God or Google knows!
Allowing for bias, missing crucial details because of proximity or aptitude, or loss of clarity over time, the incident can be something very different from one person to another. And its emotional impact quite different, as well.
I remember years ago seeing a television show called Thirty Something. In one poignant episode, the four or five main characters observe and/or participate in the same experience, but later as they sit around recollecting it and its personal impact, it would seem that they all had experienced something quite different. Some villains were heroes and vice versa; and some bystanders played more important roles in some of the scenarios. The incident as seen by the television audience you would imagine would have been the gospel truth, but that too was tarnished by the grid through which each of us perceive our world.
One person’s nostalgic memory can conjure up another’s bitterness and betrayal. We all have a tendency to place ourselves in the best light, whether intentional or not; and the harmful or even just embarrassing things, though truly “true” need to be filtered out and archived into grey matter that doesn’t . . . matter, that is!
I suspect it is just self-preservation.
But when it hurts, when it matters more, is if that other’s memory diminishes you and rewrites your history, and there is nothing you can do to edit the narrative because it has become fixed in their mind; and hence in reality.
I guess the moral of this commentary is that we need to listen more carefully than we do. I mean really listen!
We already hear and see and think about things, but very quickly all that data gets catalogued into our fixed brain-vessels that have decided who people really are—what they are like, what their worth is, their credibility, and their ability to grow and change.
If I have a 2023 resolution, it would be this: To listen with my head and my heart, creating as much as is possible a blank slate onto which I place that data. Grudges be gone. Over sentimentality be . . . well, not gone, but at least tempered with solid doses of scrutiny. Let those who hold a hard and fast history in their heads have it. But as for me, it will not make me feel less, and I will not use another’s view of me as the metric for my worth.