Once in a while you look up, and watch as the present turns into a memory, as if some future ‘You’ is already looking back on it. Memory is your past and future.
To know who you are as a person, you need to have some idea of who you have been. For better or worse, your remembered life story is a pretty good guide to what you will do tomorrow.
How many of your memories are a story to suit your Self. Your current emotions and beliefs shape the memories that you create. Your memories are mental reconstructions, nifty multimedia collages of how things were, that are shaped by how things are now.
Memories are stitched together as and when they are needed. That makes them curiously susceptible to distortion, and often not nearly as reliable as you would like.
In an autobiographical memory, the brain combines fragments of sensory memory with a more abstract knowledge about events, and reassembles them according to the demands of the present.
The force of correspondence tries to keep memory true to what actually happened, while the force of coherence ensures that the emerging story fits in with the needs of the self, which often involves portraying the ego in the best possible light.
You were born on a moving train.
And even though it feels like you’re standing still,
time is sweeping past you, right where you sit.
But once in a while you look up,
and actually feel the inertia,
and watch as the present turns into a memory
as if some future you is already looking back on it.
One day you’ll remember this moment,
and it’ll mean something very different.
Maybe you’ll cringe and laugh,
or brim with pride, aching to return.
or notice some detail hidden in the scene,
a future landmark making its first appearance
or discreetly taking its final bow.
So you try to sense it ahead of time, looking for clues,
as if you’re walking through the memory while it’s still happening,
feeling for all the world like a time traveler.
The world around you is secretly strange:
some details are charming and dated,
others precious and irretrievable,
but all fade into the quaint texture of the day.
You try to read the faces around you,
each fretting about the day’s concerns,
not yet realizing that this world is already out of their hands.
That it doesn’t have to be this way, it just sort of happened,
and everything will soon be completely different.
Because you really are a time traveler,
leaping into the future in little tentative steps.
Just a kid stuck in a strange land without a map,
With nothing to do but soak in the moment
and take one last look before moving on.
But another part of you is already an old man,
looking back on things.
Waiting at the door for his granddaughter,
who’s trying to make her way home for a visit.
You are two people still separated by an ocean of time,
Part of you bursting to talk about what you saw,
Part of you longing to tell you what it means.