Monday, November 9, 2009

Gracian on Memory

262 Be able to Forget. It is more a matter of luck than of skill. The things we remember best are those better for-gotten. Memory is not only unruly, leaving us in the lurch when most needed, but stupid as well, putting its nose into places where it is not wanted. In painful things it is active, but neglectful in recalling the pleasurable. Very often the only remedy for the ill is to forget it, and all we forget is the remedy. Nevertheless one should cultivate good habits of memory, for it is capable of making existence a Paradise or an Inferno. The happy are an exception who enjoy innocently their simple happiness.

Gracian so eloquently describes the blessing and the curse that is human memory. Always it seems, our memories of happy times are fleeting; they seem to have lasted for an instant and miles apart in time. And when we call them to mind, they appear foggy and distant as if recalling a dream. However, painful memories linger and can be nearly impossible to shake without concentrated attention--a conscious decision to cut the memory loose and stop torturing ourselves with emotional attachment we have to it.

This is something that we must train ourselves to do. We often move a such a rapid pace through our daily lives that we forget to make some space for happiness. We wake each day with thoughts of yesterday and how it will spill over into our new day, and we can't seem to get enough done in the present day to make us adequately prepared for tomorrow.

We punish ourselves mentally when we behave this way. We are judging ourselves so harshly for not meeting deadlines or the expectations that others have of us. We have an image in our minds of a perfect self, which we have agreed with others that we are supposed to be, and we beat ourselves up for not being that person. Then we cannot forget those times when we feel that we've been let down or let ourselves down, we replay this scenes in our minds and make emotional connections to them. They make us feel stress, and depression, and angst, and fear; then whenever we call those memories to mind we physically feel these emotions.

The worst part of this memory process is that we assimilate new negative experiences with past ones. If we cannot let go of the past we create an entire wall of memory of our shortcomings and we use this to reference our failures. We say, "See you should have never tried! You knew you couldn't do this." We create a terrible self-image this way. When we cannot forget the past, it will harm us in the present and can debilitate us from trying our best in the future out of fear.

We must train our minds to be able to forget those things which are causing us harm. If we can sufficiently remove ourselves from the past, then we can begin to live consciously in the present. It is important to realize that the judge in your mind is not God, and that you do not have to be the victim, listening to your own confounded criticisms. By living in the present moment, experiences of happiness will seem longer and memories of them will be more vivid.This must be done by consciously living and consciously remembering, instead of passively submitting to the voice of the judge which represents our fear of rejection and our addiction to the feeling of acceptance.

If we make this space for ourselves to experience happiness in our every moment of being, we can live in the Paradise Gracian refers to. Our state of mind and our attitude are a lens through which we view and record our experiences--it shapes our memories. It is so important to cultivate good memory skills, because the mind uses the same power to assimilate negative experiences with past bad memories, as it does to store positive ones. We can be living in a state of peace, experiencing the emotional responses of pleasure and joy that are triggered by calling positive memories to mind.

The Toltecs say that this is surrendering to the Angel of Death. Understanding that everyone/thing you know and love does not belong to you, it all belongs to the Angel of Death who could come and take it away at anytime; she is allowing you to borrow it all for now. She takes away the old and dead in order to make room for the new. She will save you and allow you to live in the state of peace, the dream of paradise, if you just let her take the past away. This is the remedy for our ills, we must remember to allow ourselves to forget. Inner peace is not an attainment or a place separate from here, there is no path there; it is as simple as remembering that to forget is a good thing, a virtue and a gift which makes room for new memories to happen. "The happy are an exception who enjoy innocently their simple happiness."

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