If we were able to recall our future as well as we remember the past, would the past have that much less stranglehold on our lives?
A friend was once talking about the last-rites systems that humans follow. He theorised that cremation offered a sense of closure, better than burying. Nothing remains, he said. What little remains, is cast off in the water. I’ve wondered about this, facing a few pyres, and my personal experience hasn’t been as satisfying as he made it out to be. Yet, there’s a merit to that theory.
While the physical remains burn readily, it’s the memories that refuse to turn to ashes. And the quality of the memories don’t matter at this time. The good, the bad and the ugly stand steadfastly by your side. You have to gently nudge them towards the pyre to be consumed and you realise you will have to light many more in the days to come for those that won’t go away. But they do, eventually.
With dead people you are the only custodian for the memories; you can hold on to them or cast them off in the pyre. With those who are alive, you cannot be the only custodian; if you are – then you are better off casting them away, in their own pyre.
Next to the hunger to experience a thing, men have perhaps no stronger hunger than to forget.
~ Hermann Hesse, The Journey to the East
Therein lies the cyclical irony — perhaps — because every experience creates a memory. It may be a good thing now, to satiate the original hunger rather than dragging the larder.