Memories are tragically short-lived, and always in danger of escaping our mental treasure chest.
The greatest moments of my life have made me tingle all over with happiness. Walking the Lisburn Road towards the Belfast city center as the rainy mist deposited droplets upon my glasses, transforming street lights and faces into a fish-eyed dreamy fog while the new discovery of M83’s saxophone solo added its robust soundtrack to my personal movie. Tingles. I wanted to cry out some magic word that would ensure that moment was never lost to time.
While it lives vividly in my medium-term memory, I know—even while in the moment—the pang of fear of ever losing that memory. I look back as recently as the last five years and know, begrudgingly, that some of these moments elude me.
I wonder if memory-loss is bittersweet. A culling of the less important for a top ten list committed to the human limit of long-term memory. Technology allows us to surpass such drawbacks, but at what cost? Pulling out your phone to document removes you and those around you from the moment if ever so slightly. The gain is a series of photos and videos of portions of these moments from sporadic days of your life.
In a world where I could document every moment—think an always on wearable camera, such as Google Glass—I trade the signal of the peaks, for the noise of the flatlands of each and every second. Many miles of desert to cross for the oasis of a rich and meaningful moment. Fear alleviated, but for what?
There is a scene in Minority Report which has stuck with me. In it, our hero watches a holographic video of his tragically deceased wife. Overcome with desire and longing he reaches out to the hologram only to be reminded that this memory is only ephemeral; perfect in its accuracy, but impossible to rejoin. In our minds we can toy with memories and relive them, perhaps smoothing the rough edges a bit to make the thought more pleasant to hold. Complete video documentation of our lives seems harsh and too true to the details, unlike the comforting, hazy, quality of a true memory.
I’ve always found Instagram and Facebook interesting. Small square portholes into the lives of my friends. An opportunity to be a fly on the wall. Most recently, the effect that filters have added, trading off fidelity for that dreamlike quality of a memory.
Maybe we’ll look back on these photos and laugh at our wanton middle-finger waving to true archival, or maybe we’ll smile at the memory—comforted by the vignette and strange colors that leave the details to our imaginations. For now, I want to keep asking questions about how we can transcend memory, but hold the magnificence of imagination dear. So that we can enjoy the present, and dream about the future, while knowing our smiling remembrances of last night’s antics remain safe kept for revisiting. Our own personal movie.
"Glass, remember this moment."