Category Archives: Philosophy

One day you will remember…

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“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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Life ®

Life-Is-A-StoryThe word ‘life’ is synonymous with complaints.

“Life is getting me down.”

“Frustrated with life”

“My life sucks.”  And so on. I hear it all the time and I use similar phrases.

Recently I tried something different with my regard of this word ‘life’ and I capitalized it, to ‘Life’, to make it a noun, a real thing, or sometimes I added a ® to make it a brand of some kind.

If I was going to talk about ‘Life’ as a thing that was ‘getting me down’ or treating me badly, then I was going to reference it as such, in my mind, or on paper. In doing so, I saw the absurdity of my statements.

life hc picIn humanizing it (more obvious when made into a noun) I was attempting to find a perpetrator for my problems, something, or someone to blame. As if Life is a mysterious yet malicious force that is out to get me. The problems I was bundling up into the term ‘life’ were a series of small problems, but more often than that the source of the problems lay within me, issues I didn’t want to face and therefore had become externalized. For an atheist such as myself, I had allowed a remarkably superstitious element to pervade my thinking.

I realized that what I’d been doing was separating this ‘Life’ away from myself, like I was having a relationship with it, like it was some ethereal thing that wanted to make my time hell. I get frustrated with Puck, my cat, and we grumble at each other. I get annoyed at ‘Life’ and I treat it the same way. Strange, because ‘life’ as I’m referring to it doesn’t exist. It’s a word co-opted by us humans to describe the sum of all experiences up this point, nothing more. It’s not a force for good, or bad. It just is.

Change-Your-Life-mission-for-michael-drug-alcohol-treatment-center-orange-countyThe danger when treating it like a perpetrator is that it’s too convenient to disregard the constituent problems or issues that are making up the general feeling of frustration. If those component problems are broken down, they can be solved, fixed, or accepted. As long as they remain in the form of this quasi-parent-like form that doles out punishment, deliberately makes our time difficult, it remains something we can’t deal with. And maybe that’s why I use the phrase ‘Life is a being a shit right now’ so I don’t have to handle it – perhaps it’s a coping function, the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears, ignoring the problems until they ‘go away’. Yeah, right.

So, yes, I’m really frustrated with Life ® right now. What a big old meany, eh?

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Apart

I’m sure that I am raising a subject that has been practically trampled flat by the intellectual tread of masses of scholars far more erudite than myself, but it’s something that echoes in my mind, and an element of human nature I share an uneasy relationship with; Why is that I so quickly reach out for contact when moments of quiet descend on me? Why am I not more comfortable with my own company than with others, why am I gregarious, not isolated, expressive and not inward, open, and not reserved in my emotions. Most importantly, why does that sentiment turn back on itself when I finally get the social interaction I need?

There is the reductionist explanation, that we are born of communities, and evolution favors the togetherness rather than the alone for increased chances of survival. Explanations given by drawing simply from biological imperative are usually true to the mark, and in my stonier moments I’ve claimed that all else, poetry, love, art, music, is mere salad dressing.

However I am not entirely a slave to my impulses. I defy daily the back and forth of instinct – most notably the desire to do harm to those who hurt those I love, which is a prodigious moebius strip if there ever was one. Life is nothing if it isn’t conflict with our primordial selves.

There is the cultural imperative, born of base instinct perhaps, that trains us from birth to explore and learn via interaction and conversation, and that to be shunned by peers is an exile of the worst type. Mother and father and ones siblings form the first community, a stepping-stone to larger and no less complicated groupings as we age.

I frequently shun contact in a social groups, so that explanation is hardly consistently applicable. A good Burnham-style question is ‘Have you ever been in a room full of people and still felt utterly alone’ to which the answer is invariably ‘yes’. There is never more a feeling of loneliness than when being misunderstood on a crucial personal concept, and solitude is never more inflamed than when we are fundamentally unable to communicate with those we feel would best comprehend.

These, or any other explanations I’ve found, are inadequate as to the conundrum of social experience.  As much as I know I need my space alone, I want to be with others. Then I achieve that and I don’t know what to say or do, my identity feels like a tangible thing to be asserted and defended, and its ethereal nature becomes frighteningly apparent. Then I crave quiet again, and all age has granted me is the slightly expanded perspective that I will again be unhappy on the other side.

And yet loneliness persists. “The loneliest sound in the universe is other people making love.” I couldn’t agree more, as it’s the empathy coupled with memory that tell me what I’m missing.

Single notes in music  are ever more poignant and painful than a flourish of noise, because they remind us that we stand apart even when we stand together.

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We are space already

We’ve been evolving from the beginning of civilization to a larger and larger perspective of life on the Earth. The next natural evolution is understanding the life in space, that is the fact that the Earth, as Buckminster Fuller used to famously say, is a spaceship; Spaceship Earth. We are in space already. It’s just that we haven’t brought that into our perspective as we live here on earth.

-David Beaver – philosopher and co-founder of The Overview Institute.

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Being Yourself

The sense of wishing to be known only for what one really is is like putting on an old, easy, comfortable garment. You are no longer afraid of anybody or anything. You say to yourself, ‘Here I am — just so ugly, dull, poor, beautiful, rich, interesting, amusing, ridiculous — take me or leave me.’ And how absolutely beautiful it is to be doing only what lies within your own capabilities and is part of your own nature. It is like a great burden rolled off a man’s back when he comes to want to appear nothing that he is not, to take out of life only what is truly his own.

-David Grayson, journalist and author (1870-1946)

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