This last article in 2019 is about memories. More specifically, the value and meaning of memories. As the old song tells us “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget“. A book that I read recently made me think about the following questions – if you did or witnessed something awful and then for whatever reasons forgot it, would you prefer to keep it forgotten or to remember? What if these lost memories were about something happy and beautiful? And what if both the good and the bad memories were combined in a period of your life that you have lost any recollection of? Would you be willing and ready to remember the sorrow, if that was the price for recalling the happiness?
The book that inspired these thoughts in my mind is the “Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who feels it important to recognize and accept the reality of life as it is, without any clear one-size-fits-all answers to the most crucial questions of any human’s life – on love, values and meaning. We can hardly find an escape from these deeply buried questions in the ‘objective reality out there’ (although we try, sometimes desperately) and are inevitably faced with the individual, subjectively-felt ‘journey’ through life along with all the choices we have to make. Some of them might make us proud while others might make us want to forget them. As most people know, our memory works in cunning ways, sometimes changing the events to be remembered in a more pleasant light, sometimes hiding them in the darkest corner of our minds so as to protect us from unrelenting pain.
They say that some things are better left untouched, unseen, untold, forgotten and not brought back into the light of day, in a manner of speaking. Indeed, it might sometimes be better to let the giant stay buried. If it is awakened and comes forth again, if we remember, we will have to deal with it. How can we be sure we are ready to face the giant? It can crush us. After all, there must be a good reason why it was buried, why we have forgotten. I do not suggest I know the ‘proper’ way or the ‘right’ answer to these questions. Yet, in my personal view, I am convinced that while our giant lays buried, we rob ourselves of moving on, of development and instead opt for an illusion of tranquillity that masks inner stagnation. Of course, remembering and bringing the giant back into the light can mean pain, in whatever form, sometimes so cruel that the mist of forgetfulness may seem like salvation. That is a real possibility and we need to recognize it. Is it a solution or a temporary fix – this has to be answered by everyone individually, to and for their own selves.
After reading this book and having these thoughts the saying ‘forgive and forget’ assumes a different connotation. It is within the personal authority of each one of us to decide – to remember or to forget. Either choice comes with a consequence and it will have to be dealt with individually. For me, the answer is to remember, to accept and understand and, finally, move on. This may take a lot of time, perhaps even several generations. Yet, the opposite would mean that, by keeping the giant buried, I block any further development and movement beyond the past that lives in forgotten memories.
To finish on a slightly more encouraging note – I wish everyone a truly happy and inspiring time in the coming days of Christmas and the New Year’s!