Thought is a dance between understanding and experience. A scene and the knowledge of what it ought to be. These two forces influence and change each other in pursuit of a fleeting equilibrium.
Memory is no different. It is a dream world accompanied by familiarity. It is also my only defense against that empress of my mind: time.
Memory is the antidote and a way to reverse the direction without fully reaching the reality of the past. It lets me be young again and live through the joy and deep pain of first love and of becoming independent. But the life already lived is shallow and lacks truth. Only a dream in the end.
What sets memory apart is its persistence. While most worlds disappear into the abyss from whence they came memory stays. It is thought that condensed and remained in ontology. Meeting an old friend means nostalgia takes hold and we start to reminisce. We become kids again and bathe memory in the light of attention. This revival of the past is what keeps it anchored. Scenes and their narration evaporate when they stay untouched for too long and only by living through them again are they kept alive.
But why do they stay? What makes a thought transgress the line and become a memory? Sometimes they are an echo of overburdening emotions. Other times they seem so arbitrary. Why do I remember being three years old, playing with my toys in a home long gone? There is nothing extraordinary about this moment but it manifested itself nonetheless. Some thoughts stay and others dissolve without a trace and the Why is a mystery to me.
Memory is persistence and persistence is the experience of familiarity. But why do I know this dream already? Is it because they readily let me experience through the eyes of a past self? Is it this constant narration, a story put in words that get repeated time and again? No. Any thought has a story to tell and how would I even know that I gave this narration before? For that, I have to remember, and to remember means having a memory, a circular dependency that leads nowhere.
Familiarity emerges out of the web of thoughts and experiences that attached themselves to this specific dream. When it is born into consciousness a dream is free of relations. But I experience this world while others travel simultaneously through my mind. There is proximity in time, a force that connects. When a thought survives the passage into memory all those fleeting connections are made durable.
Like a phoenix, this dream rises again and on its wings, all those other worlds travel along. But the now is different. My conscious states do not line up, change had to happen, and time elapsed. Now I know it is the past. Now I know it has to be a memory (A1).
Familiarity sets memory apart. Isn’t that a daunting idea? Nothing persists forever, only a web of relations, strong but unprotected from change. A dream long forgotten loses parts of itself. Narration adapts, scenes change, and the gap between the known is closed again. Inadvertently, the past was changed.
But what is true then?
Truth is: I need continuity. I require a reasonable flow. Otherwise, I have to accept that beauty, complexity, and consciousness stepped into existence without change. There was nothing until there was everything. Every morning would just be a new beginning, a mirage. That is not acceptable. I desire cause and effect; this unsettling feeling when experience makes no sense, and thoughts cannot flow freely (A2). Continuity emerges out of a fluid understanding of what is. Nothing just appears and nothing simply vanishes. I wake up with memories of a past day. So, let there be a day. But I woke up on the day before, so there is yet another one. A recursion that extends itself deep into the dark ages up until the point where I sucked in my first breath of air.
My mind forges a path through ontology, from one world to another; from now to yesterday and beyond. But it needs cause and effect to build bridges between those dreams.
Continuity creates my time but there is also a collective notion of irreversible change. The memories of us all mingle. Your past becomes mine. The stories of our ancestors echo deep within. They are carried through the generations and create a path down into the deepest and darkest ages of our kind. Time extends beyond a single being. And why stop here? Even physical reality tries to tell a story. The night sky is filled with the light of the dead while Earth is one layer upon another of past ages. There are memories everywhere, and my impression is that of infinity. Science may try to reduce the universe to an Alpha and Omega. but what came before and what will happen thereafter? Questions that make no sense because what is without change, time, and experience? So I am ignorant of the transcience and establish the infinite.
And why not? Without continuity, there is only chaos. A realm of potential order and new understanding but also of pain, suffering, and death. I can only bath in chaos when the shore of the known is ever-present. And so I believe in those memories that live within and without and time becomes stable. All those remembered dreams create a massive, entangled story I can embed myself.
Out of that bedrock of memories, the future grows. It is rushing out of the past, overtaking me, just to spread in all directions simultaneously. My mind, that orchestra of experience and understanding, maps out myriad paths from the now into the next only to choose the one which feels right. Reality is a field of potential that gets condensed into a singular stream of experience. And the ripples of that violent collapse are pushing back again into the future. The past even decides how to reduce all that potential. Going down the path on my left led to suffering. The one on my right was pleasing and good, so the decision is made and a direction is set.
As thought is a balance between experience and understanding, time is a balance between the future and the past. Neither of them is dominant and unchangeable.
A1 - Familiarity
In the hope of staying healthy, I climb that same hill every day. I experience a beautiful scene, a view down into my town and across the mountains, and it feels familiar. It does so, I believe because I know it instantly. Most of it isn’t new, only a few surprises here and there. This view has its representation in my mind, it has its objects of the mind and shreds of scenery that get stitched together to form a whole. I know this place and it is familiar to me. And so it also happens with my thoughts and dreams. They enter my mind like an old friend.
A2 - Cause and Effect
Hume is right again. There is nothing specific that is cause and effect. There is only proximity of change, either in vision or time, and sameness that binds together. And within that network thoughts flow and produce the experience of continuity. What is inexplicable to me is the underlying force that creates that need for continuity. Is it coming from without? Is physical reality as orderly as it is shown to me? Or is it only my experience of it? Might there be a reign of chaos? Maybe it is both. Maybe we live in a vertex, a stable pattern, out in an ocean of chaos. There are suggestions that there is something beyond our comprehension. A world that excludes itself from the way we experience order and understanding. A world of randomness and the unknown.