Remember to Forget

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.

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24 thoughts on “Remember to Forget

  1. Very good piece. Triggered a reordering in my stack.

    Been a while since I read it, but I think there’s a reference in Midnight’s Children to a boy who has the “blessing or curse” of not being able to forget anything he sees or hears.

    The poet Bachchan also said somewhere that he remembered pretty much everything in his life from the time he was four. And he perhaps went on to say that a good memory was integral to his profession.

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  2. ==Vipul:
    Aha! Your stack reordering is goo dnews, methinks. Africa, I remember for some reason has a lot of memory, perhaps its got to with the number of elephants?

    H Bachchan said many things, and if he said anything about memory, I automatically love it.

    Who can forget:

    पित्र पक्ष में पुत्र उठाना अर्ध्य न कर में, पर प्याला
    बैठ कहीं पर जाना, गंगा सागर में भरकर हाला
    किसी जगह की मिटटी भीगे, तृप्ति मुझे मिल जाएगी
    तर्पण अर्पण करना मुझको, पढ़ पढ़ कर के मधुशाला।

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  3. The memories are still there but I do believe we can change the way we react to them, yes?

    On a different topic, I’ve posted a couple of things on my blog yesterday and today that I hope you (and maybe others) will find interesting and hopefully inspire you. I don’t usually request that folks visit but this is important to me and for others I think/hope.

    Peace and memories (both good and bad – or neither depending on our perspective)

    ~ RS ~

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  4. ==TF:
    Glad 🙂 Elaborate?

    ==RS:
    Oh yes, of course @ change the way we react to them. I am on the road for a few days with no/limited access to the Internet. Will read when I am back. Promise. 🙂

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  5. Well ur welcome anytime …ur the busy one remember!
    Aaj kal to it’s vellah me and my tanhai…always looking for great company like you …hope i didnt bore u with alot many stories i shared ..i love doing that…the stories i mean not Boring people ha ha ha 🙂

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  6. ==Payal:
    Still one more week to go – and I don’t mind crunching in another ten weeks’ worth memories to last me till I am back next! Aap bolo – time & date! And btw, if it was boring – I wouldn’t have asked for another session – trust me!
    😉

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  7. Pingback: Remember to Forget – II « Gaizabonts
  8. Interesting read. I like the example on imposition by your teacher – if you keep reminding yourself – the memories will create a stronger root in your system. But I believe memories are transient, as newer memories get created the older ones fade out. I think its because we associate memories to people, environments etc A bad memory from a workplace gets replaced by newer memories (hopefully pleasant) in the next job or an unpleasant experience from an old relationship makes place for happier ones in a new relationship. Sometimes I find myself clinging onto some of these memories – like good times had with family and friends, or cute things done by your child. They help in erasing less desirable memories being created from the everyday grind of life.

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  9. It is amazing to note what sticks and how. I wonder if it is a learning curve or just one of those things…. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. May be memories and remembering are mind games. I wonder if pain inflicting memories make us think more, make us better people?

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  10. nice post…just a thought…isn’t it more like we push few memories under the carpet…and then something or some incident triggers it back ….and then it is the same process all over again of brushing it under the carpet…two changes that happen at this point is …the time taken to brush it under the carpet and the perspective with which one looks at it.

    The degree of pain may differ.

    may be …Time really heals the wound!

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