My friend Kasie reminded me I’m supposed to be developing my ego, so today I’m going to shamelessly quote myself. In one of my early posts, I wrote:
None of us are truly creators. Writers can only share our version of what was, or is, or might be. Are the best writers those with the most memories? Do writers have better than average memory retention? Do our memories inspire us to write in the first place? Is imagination really memory?
I’m fascinated by the nature of memory. Supposedly, every single thing we’ve ever seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted is recorded in our brains. A brain surgeon can probe a group of cells and instantly we taste the bite of pizza we were chewing at 5:17pm on 3 June 1982. Doesn’t that amaze you?
So then, why is our memory selective? Why do we choose to forget some pleasant things, yet remember painful ones. Is this how we form our personality? Is this how we form our very existence? And what is the nature of existence anyway?
Uh … yeah, going a little too deep there.
But I’m beginning to see the pattern in my musings. Maybe I should just rename this blog to Dreams, Memories, Writing since I connect them so often here. I think all three are ways we process our lives. We have little control over the first two and, on the best level, over the third, too. Flannery O’Connor said: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
That’s what our memories, and dreams, and writing are for: to find out who we are and what we think and why we’re here in the first place.
29 thoughts on “Dreams, memories, writing”
Your post reminds me of Nicole Krauss’s novel, “A Man Walks Into A Room.” It’s about a man who cannot remember any of his life after the first twelve years. He doesn’t know his wife or his house or his job as a university professor.
Throughout the book, the questions swirl around who are we if we can’t remember the things that make us, us. At one point, the wife realizes that we are (among other things) a collection of habits, so what happens when we suddenly don’t have those habits that make us so recognizable to others? Who are we? Very interesting questions. No wonder you come to the subject again and again in the blog.
I haven’t read that book, but it sounds interesting. I’ll try not to overwhelm my blog with it, but this is the nature of being is the big question, isn’t it? Who are we? What? Why?
There is so many to say about memories… You remembered me my first love writer: Marcel Proust. Did you ever read Du côté de chez Swann? Well, I think proust is the best author for this crazy go into the past and into are deep mind to see better our tomorrow.
he talk very well about the Mémoire volontaire et mémoire involontaire. I do beleave we selected what king of memories we whant to put into our writing as well as into our life. I don’t beleave we coud lived happy or équilibré with all this old memories into our mind. We must make some place sometimes…
Also, you make me think about are friend, Freud. I uses to read this great scientifique for lot of my writing. I always try to refered to the the processus of dreams he as so well explain. We can’t leave always in the past as we can’t live in the future. We must leave in the present. For me, our dreams is the doors to our past, our desirs and a better way of living our present. Our memories are our imagination for tomorrow…
I uses to work for long time with people who suffered Alzheimer. I can assure you that this people are the greatest and gentils peoples I ever meet. They don’t have access to there past anymore. So they always lived in present to try to tell us what they think, what they whant, what there dreams are.
For a writer, it is impossible to remember all of his life. Imagination is the way to put some dreams in our writing.
Sorry for my english…
Thank you for this post with so many pertinemtes questions.
Mireille, no need to apologize for your English; it’s a thousand times better than my French.
I have not read Proust, but I have read a little Freud, though I much prefer Jung. I’ve read a good bit of what he wrote about dreams and symbols. You brought up a very interesting distinction between dreams and imagination being past and future respectively. Yes, we do have to keep a balance and it’s very perceptive to point out that’s why we don’t remember everything all the time.
And you sound like a perfect person to have worked with Alzheimer’s patients.
Thank you for adding to the discussion.
I often wonder (bear with me) about collective memory (in real life, not on the blog:) ) and if memory can be passed down genetically. I think in some may it must be. I wonder these things when i write and I vividly see things I rightfully should not.
What did you recently ask me Linda? I can say that right, without sounding craze?? right?
oh, and sorry about the yellow smiley guy. lol
Jennifer, you’ve brought up favorite topics of mine … collective memory and genetic memory. Those are similar, but not quite the same, I think. They tie in to the concept of reincarnation. I’ve had some experiences which are not easily explained. And yes, all writers are “crazy” so say what you want here.
What little yellow smiley guy? I didn’t ban him, anyway. I used triplets in my response to Karen.
Pardon my footfall here, but too, I’m working to broaden my blog horizon some.
Our mind is pretty much a simple working machine, I think, and whose purpose is the business of life – what’s up from down, what tastes good, who thinks we taste good and how to avoid them. We wouldn’t get far without that ability. Maybe it seems the more complex because it never, never stops – and that’s a whole lot of stuff to keep piled up, then relate one perception to another along the way.
Some would say it is a “comparison” machine. What’s bigger, what’s smaller, what’s important to us? And what we remember, easily, happens by this simple principle – what is reinforced persists, what isn’t fades. Also how might this seem to you – we do inside carry a vision of the world, how it is in every detail possible and all the relationships that entails. We believe that vision. Why wouldn’t we? And in any given moment it is really all we have. Then along comes reality, and maybe that easily “fits into” our vision or maybe not. That’s a conflict irresistible not to resolve. A burr under the saddle otherwise! My own sense is that is the function of what dreams do for us – conflict resolution for our image of reality. Or at least for those conflicts too diverse to otherwise easily be resolved.
Painful vs pleasant memories? Which one really gets your attention I’d ask. And even the process of recalling a memory reinforces a memory, making it all the more persist. How often do we replay those memories that we initially find more challenging to experience or accept? I certainly do. No machine, no matter how capable, is without flaws, rabbit holes.
Don’t mean to say we are simply biologic machines. Neither do I confuse the difference between the driver and the car. But that’s another story isn’t it?
And the “nature of existence”, fair question, certainly! But I also like one or a few bites at a time. I appreciate those with the skill to write stories, but that’s not me. If any, my craft is in poems, and short at that. Maybe it’s my attention span!
Someone wiser than me said, “to understand it at all, we have to understand it all”. We are each one point-of-view, but as we can step outside that single one vision of what is real, not hold it as the only sacred answer, see from another’s point-of-view, become that too, then’s when things begin to get interesting.
And for “being shy”, I can talk too much! Also to say, interesting postings you make, the small sample I’ve yet read. So thanks.
Neil, thank you for including my blog in your “broadening.”
I agree with your analysis of dreams as a way to resolve conflict, though I believe that’s only the most common dream type.
I also agree that the memories most often replayed are the most alive to us. We all know that the elderly can recall childhood memories far easier than yesterday’s. And yet, that also speaks to the emotional element. In one sense, I agree that we tend to remember the unpleasant things more, but then again, I think any “event” charged with emotion, whether good or bad, will likely be easily recalled.
And I will respond to your last point in my reply to Jennifer’s comment.
Neil, your name is not linked to your blog, but I finally figured out you came over from Pamela’s blog. I’d say, no doubt, poetry is your craft. If any of you want to check it out, Neil’s blog is here: http://bearlyaudible.wordpress.com/.
Thank you Linda. Your interest to find me out. Your kindness of my poems, and to post my address. Could and have built my own other website from scratch, but getting all the details of a blog yet eludes me some! Galling. Maybe I’ve fixed it now. We’ll see.
Yes, that did it! Link fixed. Thanks again for letting me know. I’m happy now!
I believe that for many moving away from judgment of all forms is part of attaining the highest form of awareness. Asking ourselves whether we like something or not takes away from our immediate. Is this not a primary teaching of enlightenment? Oh, and for the record I waste many minutes (can it be hours?) a day questioning, and trying to decided if something is a good thing or not!
Yes, Jennifer, to see as God sees is the essence of enlightment. I spent many years searching for the key to rising above the mundane to that state of Nirvana, only to realize it can only be found in the mundane. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”
I would love you to expand on this, but I won’t hold you to it…this is a writing blog after all 🙂
Hmmm, an essay? Perhaps I should start another blog where I can express my thoughts without the censor of political correctness … under a pseudonym, of course.
Yes, and maybe a few epiphanies, yet the mundane is where I live day by day. Perhaps read any of the Poets on Poetry, of William Stafford’s – truly a poet of the mundane. Maybe why he is sometimes ignored? Seldom did he even use the word “love” in his poems as if it would be too ostentatious. Demonstrate rather than instruct, and obvious in the grace of how he expressed himself all the same.