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The Tinkered Mind
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February 12th, 2021
It’s impossible to be sure if a memory is true. How would you ever know? All you have to rely on for a representation of the past is, your memory. And yet despite plenty of instances that prove the perennial fallibility of memory, we often swear by it. The statistical likelihood of veracity is certainly not being taken into account when we do things, though, we swear by things more often on the basis of emotional conviction, not facts.
Some dreams can be so realistic they spur the dreamer once awake to ask those who were present in the dream if what passed was real. All of us have suffered this glitch of memory, though once past childhood we are duped less often, though still duped - just not by dreams.
Presenting the past again, or representing it, is the real business of memory, but it is always done so in the context of a new situation - the present. The past becomes recast, tinted, and often skewed through the lens of intervening time.
This does not just happen on an individual basis but also a cultural one. Histories get rewritten, sometimes as we discover more about the past, but just as likely because we simply have different opinions about what happened. Films get colorized, and memories take cue from fantasy.
Now we try to filter the present, altering reality, representing what is already in front of us. But of course, we’ve been doing this since we first applied paint to our own faces.
Strangely, what we often have a hard time representing is an idea of the future. It remains a dull haze, an average crash of our common efforts and distractions. Even delusions of grandeur remain so, always unrealized. The disservice we do to the past is best applied to the future. Tomorrow will always turn out to be a dull recast of today, unless of course we can imagine something radically different.