The Curse of Memory
|©1999 by Spider Johnson||back to Essays|
The Curse of Memory. It alone, as the source of Time, brings regret and loss, distinguishing the human species from all remaining beasts on Earth. Remembering the carefree innocent bloom of youth, we pine futilely to regain what we invariably learn is forever lost. Every familiar word, place and deed is a reminder of nearing doom, and doom filled with an ultimate uncertainty, despite well-meaning reassurances from the pious, pretentious, purported proud possessors of palliating platitudes to the contrary. Memory's a bitter recollection of how we were torn from oblivious Nothingness into the Pain of Temporality. Memory uninvitedly intrudes with failed romances, betrayals, incompletions and painful, permanent loss of loved ones. And, memory overwhelms us with sudden moments of mysterious unexplainable melancholy, leaving an unsettling wake of helplessness and paradox. There's no cure, and the only effective treatments--alcohol, drugs, fanaticism, lobotomies and insanity--are ultimately unfulfilling and, as cowardly alternatives, place great burdens on our fellow humans.
If you have lived somewhat soberly for 50 years, you know this is true, though a part of you angrily rebels at its implications. Beyond all control, Memory, it seems, even more than gravity, has us by the short and curlys. Memory compares us to all who have preceded us, diminishing our revelations and achievements with those smarter and greater many times throughout history, equalizing or denigrating our vaunted beliefs and all things sacred or holy. Ironically, the best modern medicine (with its specious commitment to quantity over quality) has to offer is to PROLONG the opportunity for memory to prey upon us. Finally, recalling the good times mocks our present miseries.
So. Here we are. No way out--except...maybe..one: Surrender to the pain; don't resist it. There is an Ecstasy within that surrender, and within that Ecstasy there is Forgetfulness, No Time, only Now and Now and Now, successive waves of Now which obliterates All, even Memory, even Gravity. And, in its wake, even as Time and Memory creep back in, there is Completeness, a state of being filled with an indescribable wholeness which provides the soothing sustenance of Creation itself and is continually renewed. In the surrender, the ecstasy validates the ultimate, transcendent connection and Belonging to the Mystery. It's a long shot and the best one we have, considering how contrary this idea is to our culture's teachings.
I prefer the odds.