“Life without memory is no life at all”

Not too long ago I found myself unable to recall an element of a story from my past.  It was a story I have narrated many times since it occurred nearly 15 years ago.  The event was not insignificant, and what I could no longer remember were my own words.  I could picture the scene.  I could feel what I said.  The words, however, seemed slurred, as if they were on a tape that was being played too slowly.

What a curious thing memory is.  There is so much of each day that we do not remember.  But then there are these episodes that we can revisit repeatedly; many of them, in my case anyhow, so very random, of so little significance.  Yet they stick, they linger, they creep into consciousness for no obvious reason.  And then there are those memories that are like so many beads we string together on the narrative thread of our emplotted lives.  Even these, it seems, are not as durable as we might hope.

Anthony Doerr opens Memory Wall with this reflection from Luis Bunuel’s autobiography, My Last Sigh:

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives.  Life without memory is no life at all, just as an intelligence without the possibility of expression is not really an intelligence.  Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action.  Without it, we are nothing.

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