Letting go or forgetting? Or maybe none or both; that’s always the problem with looking at the world through polarity glasses. Thing is that I find myself again and again at a loss to remember details of past events. Not just major chunks (what did I do in my 30s and 40s, for instance), but also more recent ones such as what happened a year ago and what I said to “X” just a couple of months ago.
In his near-death memoir, labouriously dictated from within his locked-in body, Jean-Dominique Bauby writes:
I am fading away. Slowly but surely. Like the sailor who watches the home shore gradually disappear, I watch my past recede. My old life still burns within me, but more and more of it is reduced to the ashes of memory.
It could be that the receding of my past is a result of twelve years of Zen practice with its emphasis of awakening to the present, of seeing the past as history and the future as mystery, of not clinging to what is no more. Another explanation may well be that I’ve spent so much effort in sorting out the past — including a doctoral dissertation on autobiographical learning — that I’m simply done with the past, that details don’t matter as much as broad themes and essential insights. Alex Nelson describes a process in which a person
develops a sense of personal autonomy and authority over their life. This awareness accompanies a critical review of how their values, feelings, ideas and imagination have given shape to their life.
It’s also conceivable and probable that I’m simply “loosing it” as my body ages and the brain’s slowing down. Or …?
sources: Bauby, J-D. (1997). The diving bell and the butterfly: a memoir of life in death. New York: Vintage, p. 77. Nelson, A. (1994). Researching adult transformation as autobiography. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 13(5). 389-403. image: www.nih.gov