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September 23, 2013

If the past is “everything that has already happened,” there’s little chance for us to ever communicate to anyone, ever–including ourselves. So we pick certain little elements from our past and stitch them into narratives.

Every time I access the past it morphs into something new. That’s true of all our pasts. If you want to know about the past, good luck. You have about as good a chance of understanding the past as you do the future. The present is often just an iteration of the stories we’ve been telling ourselves about the past.

If you want the future, you can very well look to the past to get it. Because every time your past changes, so does your present. What is the future if it isn’t just the constant forward momentum of presents becoming new presents? And what easier way to create a new present than to reinvent the past.

I used to have vivid, warm memories of a certain Christmas eve. While cleaning the attic several years ago, I found a home video of that same Christmas eve. It all looked just as I remembered it–but I was shocked to realize that this Christmas eve took place several years before i was born. The memories I had cherished were of the home video, watched as a small child. The memories had changed every time I accessed them in subsequent years.

A testimony is gained in the sharing of it.

Mormons should reverence writers: we rewrite ourselves by rewriting our past. Zion and its counterparts are the future we are writing ourselves towards. 

What happens when we write imperfection out of our past? and replace it only with the word, “imperfection”–the idea of imperfection without its substance–the disclaimer, rather than the celebration, of imperfection?

There’s something horrifying about the whitewashed wall and the scrubbed out text and the cremation of the natural man. I don’t know that I’m afraid of oblivion, but I wouldn’t want it to come while I’m still alive.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2013 7:29 pm


  2. Anon. permalink
    October 17, 2013 1:31 am

    This is beautiful, albeit in a sort of melancholy way. You’ve articulated a phenomenon that I’ve always had trouble putting words to. Our realities are in our heads. Every tool we have to quantify the world around us–touch, smell, sight, taste, sound—still requires further interpretation in the human mind. A mind that forgets, warps, glosses-over, aggrandizes. Almost every human being is prone to hindsight bias, I feel. How could we avoid it? Just in existing, our lives are an endless hum of taking in raw data, over and over, re-interpreting, re-imagining, re-spinning. Some latent desire or fear can re-color an entire chunk of our past, make it something it wasn’t. We pick through and craft our memories and our relationships and our failings through revisionist history. When you know how a storyline ends, you look back on it and think you saw foreshadowing where there was none. Superimposing what we know in the present onto our selves of the past.

    You saw the tape, and I assume that’s what made you realize that your memory was flawed—even fictitious. But, to you, wasn’t that reality? For all intents and purposes, it did happen—it affected you as though it had happened, you recalled it as though it happened. The tape disproved that it was a natural memory, but I’m curious—could even the video tape have frozen the event in perfect clarity? Could it really preserve it for what it was?

    I’m not even sure how to qualify what something ‘is’. I feel like reality, as we know it, is subjective. No human has yet transcended to a pure perspective; everything around us still needs to be processed through our brain, an organ. A blot of jelly in a bowl of bone, connected to all the other pieces of us with wiring and string, with bits of data lost along the way or colored poorly by a faulty lens. Can we see an event in absolute truth, even in the moment when it happens, or is everything we know about the world simply a conglomeration of thousands of flawed vantage points? (Brings up the ‘If a tree falls in the forest’ idea. When I was small, I used to ask my mother if things still existed, even when there was nothing there to observe them. “Is my bed still in the room even when I’m not in the room?”)

    Sorry, this is straying from what I feel your writing was getting at. I know nothing about metaphysics or quantum physics or what-have-you, so when I get started I just run in circles with it.

    I really enjoyed this, like much of your other writing. I keep reading this blog from time to time, because it makes me laugh, because sometimes it makes me very sad, but most often because these things you seem to feel, I feel, too. I try to avoid catharsis via the work of others, but I do find some of it here. Don’t tell anyone.

    I’m scared of the whitewashed wall. I’m afraid of what my past is and is not—afraid that I don’t know the difference—and the fictions that I make out of people and places and time. I suppose the fear is an indication that we understand something about being human—that we are small, mortal, and even our memories are limited by our bone-flesh-blood cages and their flaws.

    If we’re only lenses viewing a scene, then the scratches on our surface can’t help but distort the truth, even when it unfolds before us: touchable, visible, layered, before it’s flattened into memories. The trouble is when we paint over—when we inevitably edit them in post. Blotting out those little imperfections, content to remember them as just that.

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