“Attend to the present, the only part of time that doesn’t require the use of memory.”
Living in a dream of the future is considered a character flaw. Living in the past, bathed in nostalgia, is also considered a character flaw. Living in the present moment is hailed as spiritually admirable, but truly ignoring the lessons of history or failing to plan for tomorrow are considered character flaws.
I still needed to record the present moment before I could enter the next one, but I wanted to know how to inhabit time in a way that wasn’t a character flaw.
Remember the lessons of the past. Imagine the possibilities of the future. And attend to the present, the only part of time that doesn’t require the use of memory.
Over the weekend I read Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso, and I particularly liked the above section. I originally thought the book was only about Manguso’s diary-keeping habit, which of course is a big part of it, but I enjoyed the way she wrote about her diary as a defense of memory. I liked how she explained that keeping a detailed record was how she planned on remembering everything important that happened to her.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about memory and forgetfulness, because that is a very interesting and terrifying concept to me!! I’m always worried that I’m forgetting something with varying degrees of importance. I’ve never travelled anywhere without forgetting at least one crucial object, for example, and I live in constant dread of forgetting to reply to an email or some similar professional obligation. This has been the first year where I’ve gotten really organized about recording personal details as they happen, either in a notebook or just a dumb Evernote, because I worry about losing them the same way I worry about losing a work task or appointment. Just falling out of my brain and landing…nowhere. At least this way the memory falls out of my brain and lands, in some form, on some kind of page.
In related news, here’s a new study strengthening the theory that memories form during sleep, so it might be more beneficial to get more sleep rather than frantically scribbling down all the seemingly emotionally significant things that happen to me in the present or very near past? No, that’s too reasonable, I won’t be doing that.