I had this vague idea that everything after my first memory is consciously retrievable. Of course that’s not true. There must be plenty more I don’t remember than I do. So then I worried that I’d lost a part of me.
Perhaps that’s the reason why we record so much stuff, particularly now the technology in our pocket makes it easy. To remind ourselves.
So let’s imagine that it were possible to recall (or record) everything. Would that be a good thing? Well, perhaps not the painful stuff.
OK, so how about if we edited out the painful stuff and remembered just the good experiences? But then we’d have an unbalanced and unrealistic perception of life. It may be that we do subconsciously attempt to erase unpleasant experiences already.
In any case, even if we do have the capacity to remember everything, we simply don’t have the time to spend going over it all again, let alone going over other people’s memories. It would be like an interminable holiday slideshow!
So do we need to worry that “forgotten” memories are lost? Probably not, if they are accumulated in our unconscious, adding to who we are.
That seems quite reassuring. More so if you accept the idea of collective unconscious: that in some small way, all our memories are brought together and carried forward through generations.
On that basis I’m going to focus even more on looking forward, and not get too panicked if I didn’t shoot off 1,000GB of photos and videos at every event!
To finish with, here’s an incredible and humbling thought: the “umwelt” – mentioned in a recent debate about the power of the unconscious mind. A quote from David Eagleman:
“We don’t have a strong grasp of what reality “out there” even is, because we detect such an unbearably small slice of it. That small slice is called the umwelt.
…the electromagnetic spectrum visible to us is less than a ten-trillionth of it. Our sensorium is enough to get by in our ecosystem, but no better.”