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Memory, Identity & The Past

Memory is very crucial for functioning in this world. Without memory it will be very difficult for us to operate effectively in the world. We require past knowledge to carry out our day to day activities. Where is the supermarket located? Have I already bought milk for the week? How much rent do I have to pay? All these require your memory to function properly.

Our identity is based on memory. So if you take away memory you will have no past, you won’t remember your desires and your fears. Memory gives continuity to your identity. This much is very clear and straight forward. Memory is also the root of comparison. You cannot compare if you don’t have any memory to compare it with. For example-

If you have been married or in a relationship for a long time, you will eventually arrive at this scenario- “why don’t we feel the same vibe, the same emotions, the same passion we used to feel long back”

Whenever you are faced with a situation like above, you will internally recall a time when it was more than this, it was better and happier and fulfilling. But this moment, is not like the one I had experienced earlier. So memory is required to make all these comparisons. Most of our memory is emotionally charged. Any recollection of a past event is generally charged with an emotional valence.

What if we had no memory to compare this present moment with the past? So imagine, the past memory is wiped out, and this present experience, whatever it might be, has no benchmark to compare it to. How will that feel? You would be forced to see the experience for what it is.

So comparison needs memory, the entire fabric of memory takes us again and again from the “What Is”. And when we compare the “What Is, to what was, especially in relationships, we feel frustrated, sad and depressed. The mind keeps saying -it was so beautiful then, my childhood was amazing, you were more caring and passionate, I felt this and that with you etc.

The mind loves looking through the glasses of the past. It is because that past has become part of your identity. Memory is the thread which weaves this identity.

Why can’t we celebrate the “what is”?

Use memory to function, but don’t let memory take you away from the present moment awareness. Take some moments and become aware of how you view your everyday life and experiences. How much are they tainted with memories of the past?