One day you will remember…


“One day you will remember this moment. And it will mean something very different.”

This was a single line extract from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. It’s regarding memories that suddenly slip back in and suddenly flood the moment. As poignant as the sentiment was, it got me thinking, and I realized that the implications of the two sentences were amazingly complex, and a little disconcerting. Each idea tangentially shifts into another, and what I think about keeps splitting off into more and more, so I will try to slice this up with some concision.

Sentence 1) One day you will remember this moment…

There will come a day when I look back on this moment. That alone is amazing. What it says is that the present moment is part of a structure stretching into the future and moving from the past. It may appear to have narrative, because that’s what my mind asserts over the top of day to day events while so many aspects are truly disconnected and disparate (like a dream, where the dreaming brain automatically spins a yarn from whatever strangeness is emptying out of the unconsciousness just to make sense of it). Yet, in my memory of the moment, I will weave a vaguely coherent story to connect it to the rest. Some spiritually minded people would throw even more layers on top, calling the paths of our lives to be determined destiny or fate, or that everything happens for a reason, which might well be true and comforting, but it doesn’t resound with me. I’ve been told too many times that things were supposed to be, only to have them fragment.

memoryThat said, we can accept that despite the disconnected nature of existence, the brain will construct a story to help it make sense, to provide order, and given that my brain is how we perceive the world, then I’ll accept that as explanation.

If the future hasn’t happened, then what I’m experiencing is only a fragment of something larger, a few words in a story that is ongoing. I think that perspective alone lends some degree of comfort, that each moment is not the be-all and end-all. The significance of this moment, and all the rest like it, is not yet known to me, similar to the axiom of ‘one door closes and another opens’. My future self will exert significance I couldn’t even imagine. It’s why I find the term ‘this is a learning experience’ almost amusing and paradoxical, because how much of an experience is going to end up positively stored and utilized seems absolutely out of my control.

Sentence 2) …And it will mean something very different.

Not only will my future self throw some narrative importance over the top of these moments in ways I can’t even fathom, I won’t even remember the moment correctly. Here’s where I risk truly spinning off into a thousand tangents due to being a self-confessed mnemono-maniac , but even just contemplating what any given moment truly is blows my mind. The nature of reality, how we perceive things, our bias, deficiency of awareness or even hyper-awareness of things to obscure others. How narrow our scope of perspective truly is. Ask anyone how they remember a moment and it will never be the same, in any way, and there is no way of knowing which is the more accurate (one of my favorite games is to ask someone how they recollect an experience and marvel how different it was from mine).

polaroidNow, take that memory and throw it across days, months and years. It refines down to a shadow of its former self. The memory is corrupt and changed, moulded around other concepts and ideas, degraded like a repeatedly photocopied image until the flavor of it is completely different.

That alone is… worrying? I’m not sure. Modern neuroscience says that memory is even less of a static thing, that every recollection modifies it, and in fact your memory of an event is simply a regurgitation of the last version you recalled. The very nature of our lives is apparently fluid and changing. Even the externalization of memories in photographs, film and writing is an experiential element prone to our own reinterpretation with every viewing (the best they can do is trigger recollection where memory of the original experience might have simply disappeared).

“One day you will remember this moment. And it will mean something very different.”

If there can be such a thing as a conclusion to this rambling mess of a post, it would be that, to me, together the sentences read as a kind yet sobering reminder not only of the impermanence of our lives and the lessons we take from them, but that forces in our brains, beyond our control, will generate a story of our pasts that we didn’t write, with us acting roles we didn’t plan for with no discernible plot. My reaction to this is one of great concern and fascination, and would certainly make me completely relate to anyone summarizing their existence with the last words of “What the hell just happened?”

“Time and memory are true artists; they remold reality nearer the hearts desire.”
-John Dewey

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Walking away.

The knowledge that they’re gone. And it’s your fault.

The understanding that they’re not just gone from you, but happy to leave. To know that your time spent together eventually became the symbol of a springboard, you; the starting blocks of a headlong sprint. Away. As fast as possible.

To know your shared memories will be dismissed like lint dusted from the shoulder of a new cardigan. Neither cherished, nor hated. Just brushed away.

You did this. You didn’t mean to, but you did.

Please come back.


But vulnerability now looks desperate. Words of love are caught and lost on the wind. Pleas are stomach aches. Apologies are handed back; too late. Too little. Too much.

This too, shall not pass, but form the quiet dust on luggage best left packed up, added to the attic pile of unresolveds and might-have-beens and goodbyes with doors left yet still ajar.

To know they’re gone, with a smile on their lips, and relief on their minds.

And to know: you did this.

Woolf, on writing

“… there is the dictionary; there at our disposal are some half-a-million words all in alphabetical order. But can we use them? No, because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. Look once more at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than Antony and Cleopatra; poems lovelier than the Ode to a Nightingale; novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. But we cannot do it because they do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind.”
-Virginia Woolf, taken from the only recording of her voice, a BBC radio broadcast from April 29th, 1937.
This reminds me of the saying of Michelangelo when he stated “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
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shameI went to the gym today to see what kind of prices they had. I was introduced to a well-meaning man who appeared to have a vested interest in enrolling me. However, his methods were singularly geared towards making me feel inadequate. It could be argued that I am sensitive about my body – that much is true. Nevertheless his comments were harsh, focusing on my ‘average’ body fat ratio (“Tell me, what kind of man do you want to be? Average?”) and reflecting on some perceived failure in my remarkably Spartan diet (“There must be something… pizza on the weekend? Coffee? With half & half? Well there’s your problem…”).

I felt broken down afterwards, yet left feeling a strong incentive towards ‘changing myself’ because I essentially suck, and accepting that the only place I could repair these issues was in that furnace of strutting and posturing and flexing that seems to have less to do with physical fitness and more to do with social signalling. This felt like a mixed benefit. Would it get me in the gym? Probably. Would it be fun? Likely not in the slightest.

I get his technique. It makes sense, and I am familiar with the boot-camp style of knock ’em down and build ’em up. Find a weakness and then sell the means to resolve this weakness. Even now I find myself squeezing my body to seek out some perceived flabbiness or lack of toning. This is the modus operandi of the average advertising campaign and I’m extremely aware of the shit they try to pull.

This to me appears to be entirely the wrong way to motivate others or oneself. Start with shame and you end up with a carrot-on-a-stick motivator. Additionally, all templates of shame are rooted in the child parts of ourselves, and it’s important to ask, how would we talk to a child that we wished to encourage to some form of change? As summed up nicely on a random gym’s website I found:

Think of yourself as a child, perhaps one of your own kids, who is looking to you for help getting into shape. How would you talk to them? Would you say to them “You’re fat and weak and pathetic!” and then encourage them to head off to the gym with that message bouncing around in their head? No, you’d be supportive, encouraging and positive: “You can do this!”, “Showing up is half the battle!” or “Hang in there – it gets easier!”

Self-confidence is hard to sell to, so salespeople don’t like it very much. Yet, a healthy self-esteem provides the best middleperson with which to have a relationship with ourselves. It’s the broker that helps us negotiate necessary change. If we damage that by constantly feeling inadequate, then we’ll never be content with the progress we make and never truly learn to enjoy the benefits we work so hard to achieve.

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On the train

cta“I saw him on the train, a passing glance. Something not immediately obvious caught my attention. He was sitting upright, hands clasped over a small leather satchel, opposite me. Eyes closed. Peaceful.

Dozing? No. Meditating? Perhaps.

The sparsely populated train moved along, and yellow sunlight, permitted entry by the passing buildings, glanced and sporadically coated the metal surfaces.

I noticed, at first without concern, and then with a rising sense of unease, that as the train tumbled and bounced down the track, that he was still. Perfectly still. We all rocked and shuttled with the movement of the carriage and yet he did not. He was a dead body in the casket, painfully static as we desperately scan for any sign of movement. As if he was floating above this mild mechanical bull as we knocked about on the bumpy ride, though he was undoubtedly sitting, and certainly alive, but frozen. For three stops he remained, lids closed, no expression on his long face, no movement, resisting physics and any established reality that I knew. Then, his stop approaching, he returned, eyes opened, and his hips and shoulders and head began to move with the train again, as if becoming reconnected with the rest of the world. He did not see me staring. And when the station pulled into view, he stood, brushed down his short coat, and walked away.

To this day, I have never understood what I saw.”

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