When you most want to remember something, it doesn’t come to you. When you most want to forget something, it doesn’t close the door behind.
Like layers, each memory sits on the other — marking its place in the mind and its position on the stack. Not necessarily chronologically, but by a vague self-serving importance. We often believe that a particularly unpleasant memory sits on the top of the stack only to trouble us, haunt us and cause turmoil, remind us of all that we would like to forget.
Forgetting something is just a matter of rearranging the memory stack (and no, I am not indulging in any geek-speak here) — and it seems to be innate to human nature.
The whole of world history often seems to me nothing more than a picture book which portrays humanity’s most powerful and senseless desire — the desire to forget.
Now, while Hermann Hesse may have said this in a completely different context, it is true about those delinquent memories that we try to avoid looking in the face. In wanting to push back a memory down the stack, we keep calling it. Like a file on a computer’s disk, it keeps coming up front; it’s accessed. But this memory cannot be wiped out, these are files that cannot be erased — they may be forgotten and archived or may even get lost, but never will be erased.
And for good reason.
I have forgotten many things, when I think of them, I think there is a good reason for that, even. And then, one fine early morning at 2AM the stack is reordered.
Just like a jukebox acting out its nature, a long forgotten memory plays in my mind, it in turn calls up another. My geography teacher never beat us or threw us out of class to punish us. She had an interesting punishment: imposition. All that we learned that day, was to be written in our notebooks — five times. She perhaps had her own philosophy of memory and its purpose in our lives which she imposed on us.
The most unpleasant of all memories will serve you well someday. When it comes to the top of the stack in a completely different context, you will know something that you didn’t before — see it in a way that you never did. Remember to forget what you don’t need to remember. You will remember it when you need to.
The rest of the morning is a pre-dawn question mark hooked on to the grid-like shadow of the window’s grill on my wall made bright and clear by the newly installed sodium-vapour street light, put there for the convenience of the policemen patrolling the night.
It was pretty much like that, if my memory serves me right.