“You are the sum of all your precious experiences.”
This story grew out of that quote. I wanted to explore the idea of identity. Who are you? As in, what makes up who you are? Is it your body, your memories, your parents or your genetics?
For this story, I decided your memories make up the majority of your identity. Supposing this is true, then how much can you forget before you stop being yourself? I have forgotten many people, events and experiences throughout my life. With each loss, did I, in some infinitesimal way, stop being myself? Maybe after the memory loss, I was a new person. A person that was less because of the subtraction of a past experience but more because of the addition of the new experience of now. Was it a wash? Are all new experiences just as valuable as all the old ones that are forgotten?
Maybe we are a sort of time traveler moving through the timeline of the Universe. Old memories drop of while new ones come in. We move on through life, blissfully unaware that at each instant we are a new person simply due to forgetting. Only in retrospect, many years from now, when you look back and remember who you were, does the aggregate changes to your personality caused by those tiny lost memories become apparent.
That’s sad in a way. “I am who I am today because of what I have forgotten.” Your experiences are treasures but you can’t keep all of them. No, you can’t! You have to make room for more. You just can’t remember everything that has happened to you. The new stuff has a place. The old stuff has to go.
What about people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia? Are they still themselves? They don’t behave like their old selves but going back to the concept of change. Maybe they are still themselves, just as a new incarnation with less history.
There’s a lady I knew back in college. I can picture her face clearly. I remember talking to her several times. For the life of me, I can’t remember her name. I remember remembering her name. I know it was an interesting name and I did remember it for many years. Now? Poof. It’s gone. I can’t get it back.
I wonder what memory replaced that one of her name? Am I a better person for forgetting her name? Is the new memory more important? More valuable? More importantly, is the ‘me’ that remembered her name, substantially better or worse than the ‘me’ that no longer remembers her name?
But wait. Hold on a second. Suppose that I DO remember her name. What then? Do I go back to being the person I was back when I initially remembered or does yet another memory get lost and then replaced with her name?
Deep thought: How much can you forget and still be yourself?