One word: lost.
Last week, we finished watching a mind-boggling film by out-of-his-mind director Christopher Nolan. Basically, Memento revolves around Leonard Shelby who suffers a condition where building and grasping onto new memories is nearly impossible. The last thing he remembers is his wife’s murder prior to his head accident leading to short-term memory loss. The film’s narrative backtracks Shelby’s recollections while another moves forward in time. Generally, the movie’s complexity required a person to be in the right mind in order to understand the muddled sequences of Shelby’s mind.
Going back to my earlier statement, I was lost. The movie ended with Shelby saying and I quote, “Where was I”. I ended the whole film lost and with great awe. I was lost for words; lost in my thoughts whether I was experiencing another inception and deception of reality, lost in the truth behind our memories. However, I regained consciousness when the questions that I formulated and based from the movie were answered established from my own resolutions. Throughout the duration of the whole film, I was able to devise four questions and I would like to share with you the two good (and sensible) ones.
Can you trust your memories to provide you assuring details if not exact ones?
This is basic, the answer is simple and with conviction, a NO. We don’t need a mental illness to forget things all the time, that’s just the way the nature of our brain works. We know for a fact that our memories are faulty reconstructions of our experiences susceptible to other influences inside our brain such as emotions, goals, philosophies, and ideas. They are hardwired to let you remember something but never exact points and details of a particular event. You may remember your fifth birthday but never the shoe color of your best friend who attended your party. Or, you may remember your first ice cream flavor but never the dress or shirt you wore on that specific day.
Correspondingly, retrieval of memories may have altered occurrences. As what Sara Adaes, PhD student, wrote in one of her blog entries, “…. what is retrieved from memory can be substantially different from what was initially encoded, and what was encoded can also differ from what really happened.” Memories are never stable. They differ each time you revert yourself into remembering things. We tend to mash different experiences all at once in our heads into one giant blurry memory. The more we distinguish and separate one memory from the other, the more we tend to jumble up most if not all aspects of each. We can later replay memories in our head, however, some parts would glitch and cease to exist. To make it simpler, it’s like an “it’s on the tip of my tongue” familiarity that you never got yourself familiar with.
In conclusion, even our memories can be very deceiving. Even our memories can lie to us despite them being a part of ourselves. It’s up to us if we rely entirely upon our own discretion for information that satisfies us. This leads us to my next question:
Do we lie to ourselves to be happy?
Ponder on this: How many times have you made yourself believe that you’re ‘still’ good enough for other individuals? How many times have you made yourself believe that you can do what they do and not feel insecure about yourself? Countless times, I guess. We all lie to ourselves in order to feel contentment and satisfaction. We lie because we are human. We all do this and there’s nothing sinful with that. It is absolute human nature and lying is an ingenuous natural trickery that we inflict upon ourselves.
Moreover, we lie to ourselves in order to gain some meaning and purpose in life. This becomes our loophole in making ourselves believe that we are currently “happy”. We seek happiness and make up our own truth as we have dominion and total control over our own judgement. Our happiness then becomes dependent on how we shape our reality and on how we want to see it. People often tend to make up their own truth when the real truth doesn’t jive with their perspective of delight.
Quoting Justin Tadlock in one of his online entries, “In the scheme of the world, we all do not want to see the truth, since the truth would change who we are, and it would take away our purpose for being. We lie to ourselves to keep going, to keep living day to day. Our lies are who we are, and we do not want to lose our sense of self. Since our identity is built around the lies that we tell ourselves, we have nothing to look for outside of the meaning that these lies represent.”
I strongly agree with Tadlock’s argument since the walls we surround ourselves namely concocted realities make us attain and firmly hold onto a goal we desperately desire in life. These lies become vital in our day-to-day practices as it becomes our motivation to continue and enhance ourselves. These are small realisms we create to be pleased.
However, does it mean that we never let ourselves face the truth of reality and how it really hits us in the face? As mentioned in my earlier discourse, it is mainly up to us if we want to rely on these fictitious assertions. We can, and can’t believe what we tell ourselves. It is somewhat an inception where we tell ourselves lies and believe those lies when we know what the truth is and that what we’re telling ourselves are bended and stretched actualities.
To sum up, our memories are faint retentions of what the mind chooses to keep. We can recall previous experiences in our past although it may not provide us accuracy. Memories may create an impression, reverse a judgment and provide material.
“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.”
― Gautama Buddha
*This entry is inspired by the film, Memento and the view of Buddhist metaphysics on mind and happiness.