Memories. Memories pepper your mind like millions of pictures and videos detailing your life as you saw it, as you perceived it. They exist in the good times and the bad. In the times you want to remember, and the the times you wish with all your might you could forget. They exist as tools for us to learn from our past in an effort to push for a greater, more beautiful future. Memories are beautiful/terrible little things that we cannot and should not take for granted.
With that in mind, let us perform a thought experiment. Think about all of the people you love the most, and the memories they populate. There are innumerable, most likely. Birthdays, weddings, funerals, good days, bad days, great days, and terrible days. But, that is to be expected. The people you love the most are the obvious, the ever-present parts of your memories that make up the mosaic that has been your life up to this point. That is not to say that they are not important. That is clearly not the case. Here, though, we’re going to focus on something else: the rest of the people that populate your memories. The nameless faces and places that are memorialized in your mind for better or for worse. What can we say about them?
First, let us split them up into good and bad memories.
The good. These are times that you cherish in your heart and mind as times worth remembering forever. Times you hope you never have to lose because they help you through the bad times and make you smile when you didn’t think you could. For example, we recently traveled to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo for New Years. On New Years Eve we ended up in a Western bar with an amazing group of people, including a couple of friends we stay in contact with, and had one of the greatest times of our lives. We danced. We laughed. We drank. We hugged, huddled, and exclaimed the beauty of the environment and energy that surrounded us. It was a night filled with nothing but happiness and joy and the passing of an old year, for all its glory and warts, and the coming of a new one, with all its possibilities and its dangers. Beyond that, though, it was a night filled with those things and, also, in large part by people we do not know and will probably never see again. By people whose names are irrelevant because their actions and their camaraderie are what made the night so amazing. It is an unforgettable memory populated largely by nameless, yet unforgettable people.
The bad. As everyone knows, there are good memories that we cherish, but also bad ones we wish we could forget. Memories do not discriminate, and rightfully so. We can learn a great deal from those bad memories. And, like the good memories, these bad memories are also populated by nameless, sometimes faceless people. Think about a time when someone tried to, or worse did, start a fight with you for no reason. Think about a time when someone looked down upon you and treated like lower than human. Certainly, many of these memories are populated by people who you know. But, many will also be populated by people you don’t. By people unknown in the annals of the history of you. People known to you only by the ills they’ve done upon you. People known to you only in connection to those bad memories and nothing more.
Alas, what does this all mean? What are we trying to get from this?
Just think about it for a second. Think about how amazing what we have discussed above is. Human beings have a bad habit of compartmentalizing and segregating themselves from the rest of the world. A bad habit of thinking of themselves as existing in a vacuum, especially outside of their close inner circles. But, as we have seen above, that just simply isn’t the case. We, as people, live within the minds and memories of a multitude of people we do not, and probably will never know. We live in the minds of people we don’t even realize. We live in the minds of people we have no recollection and/or memory of. Likewise, people live in our minds and memories in the same way. Our stretch, our touch goes far beyond the felt and experienced interactions of our lives. Our actions can echo in the minds of hundreds, thousands, and, before our lives are over, probably millions of people. Whether we like it or not, we are very intimately connected to people we have encountered, whether physically or digitally, all over the world.
Now, what do you want to be remembered as? Do you want to be living, possibly forever, as a good memory or a bad one? Memories are an amazing thing because they tell us about our pasts, regardless of our biases, and guide our futures. Every day we likely create memories in other people and are likewise affected by other nameless people around us. Certainly, those close to us are extremely, vitally important. But, it is those nameless people we affect that say something even more interesting. We live beyond ourselves, whether we like it or not. So, be a good memory.
Do you have a good or bad memory you can’t shake? Tell us about it below: