The fallacy of an impeccable memory

I’m the sort of person who doesn’t rely on anyone. Doesn’t wait for someone to ask if I have eaten or if I am doing ok or if I need help. I’m the sort that people ask for help of. I’m the sort that does things on her own. I’m the sort that doesn’t wait.

I’m also the sort that doesn’t forget. If someone goes out of their way to care for me, they make a permanent spot in my heart. They stay.

I wrote this about myself a while back. Now, it’s become a lie. At least the second part of it has. If I were a Game of Thrones character, my characters title would be “Uzma, the One who Forgets”. When I go through my old posts, I feel like a different person wrote them. A person I don’t remember being. A better, unselfish, naive person who is not me.

I read a lot and a recurrent theme in the books I read rely on the character’s memories of their younger self and I think to myself, “That can’t be accurate. No one remembers what events passed on the night of April 16th, 1995. Not me, not you, not if the memory is supposed to be a happy one, or a scary one, or a traumatic one. It does not matter. I don’t remember who I was, what I was thinking, the names of people, the color of their clothes, and hair, and skin, and the shape of their eyes. I don’t remember anything except for a fleeting feeling of knowing that something happened because it feels right. How are these characters capable of remembering things that they as kids didn’t even realize would have been traumatizing to their adult selves?

The only real memories that are absolutely, startlingly clear in my hear are the embarrassing ones. The ones that I can recall instantly, and with a clarity that makes me feel like I am reliving them; the ones that make me cringe to the core of my being.

“Few things are more deceptive than memories” – The Shadow of the Wind

People don’t remember what u say to them, they remember how u make them feel.
My friend said this to me yesterday. It isn’t the first time someone’s said this to me. I’ve told myself this many times over too. Our mind is so very good at gist, at feelings. At the end to the day, they’re all that remain. The exact words, the looks, the gestures, the intonation, the expression, it all goes away. What remains is the way you made another person feel. It’s surprising how much we rely on just these feelings to judge another person. Ask a person for a direct judgments and they can never tell you exactly what they said or did to make you not like them, it’s just the bitter feeling they left that makes you dislike them. It’s no one thing. It’s just the impression.

We form friendships based on these. We fall in love based on these feelings. Our entire lives operate on these. What if this system is as flawed as we know it is when we read about it. Isn’t there a way to fix it?

Should we care to fix it? Should we hold grudge against people for something we think they did, that they don’t and/or have a completely different memory of? I don’t even remember the person I used to be and if I do, I think to myself how I had the energy to be so good since I am now so much worse!? Could it be that the person I hold a grudge against is also no longer the person they were? So, how can I hold a grudge against someone who isn’t who they were?

Wonder

Everybody’s got two wolves inside them. Both of them are starving. One wolf is anger, envy, pride. The other one’s truth, love and kindness. Everyday they tear each other apart. But it’s not the better wolf that wins. It’s the one you feed. – Tsalagi Tale

Sometime I wonder if anyone wonders what it’s like to be me; to live my life. The way I wonder what it’s like living someone else’s life. Do they think it’s easy? Or that the perceived value of my life is more or less than theirs? Do they wish they could be me? Or do they feel sorry for me and wish they never lead a life remotely similar to mine? Or do they even think about these things at all?

I want the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and know what they are going through. Sometimes I see the people who are evidently living a great life and for a fleeting moment I wish I lived theirs. But then, I stop and think of what problems they could be having that I don’t have and can’t handle. What struggles do they have in their seemingly perfect life? Will I ever be able to deal with the same issues that they face? Maybe their relationships with their loved ones are the hardship they face. Maybe they have trouble conceiving. Maybe they have financial issues and live with uncertainty every day of their lives. Or they don’t have enough food for the whole family. Or they are crippled by debt.

We all live under different pressures. Each person’s pressures, issues, difficulties, hardships are tailored towards their own self and with one goal: improve, rise above, hope, persevere, grow, learn, survive. Every single person has a unique set of issues like no others. I guess the Buddhist’s, video game creators and sci-fi authors are correct in a way: maybe a person ascend from one level to the next, the only difference being in the level of difficulty a person faces. But all this is an exercise in an isolated, individual world. Our secluded selves are not the way this world allows us to operate. To our individual problems, throw in an added complexity; that of the human’s ability to have interpersonal relationships and socialize. You now have the ability to exponentially increase your hardships in intensity or reduce them.

Because people forget that we all have our problems and are at the level of the game we are supposed to be at. Instead of dreaming/imagining each others life with empathy, it becomes a game of comparison. Although, there are people might dream of your life and be envious of it, they at the end of the day will step out, wish you well, be grateful for what they have, and move on. Others, however, might think you have an easier life than them and instead of wishing you well and moving on, they would take it upon themselves to teach you some hard lessons they think life hasn’t taught you. These people don’t directly cause you pain or stress, because that would make them terrible people, but they wait in the sidelines and encourage situations, hoping hardships befall you so they can “save” you and teach you the lesson. Their “good Samaritan” label on their self-identity remains intact and yet..

I wonder if my dim view of people is naive or if in my 32 years of life, I have managed to glean at least something insightful from my life. A lot of us don’t even know what is going on inside our own heads, let alone another’s. How do you gauge another’s intentions if we, the only creatures with the ability to communicate abstract ideas, can’t elucidate our murky feelings or be transparent about them? Perhaps, what we lack is courage. I know I do. Sometimes I think I am that person that wants to teach people the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way by “saving” them. It makes me hate myself and I have to make a conscious effort to draw myself back from being that person.

So, I guess the question is, which type of person are you? How do you make yourself be the Empath rather than the Samaritan? How thin is the line between them? What role is the Empath supposed to play in the world of interpersonal skills?

The Night Bird

If you can’t already tell, this book is gorgeous <and so that’s why I bought it>. But let’s not (just) be superficial.

The book in itself was pretty great. It was the typical psychological thriller that focuses on whether trauma and the memories associated should be repressed or expressed. Repressed memories, I feel, always come back and haunt you in ways you cannot imagine. They seep back into your life and wreak havoc in your life because fact is that our experiences make us who we are. Our retention of our memories is what shapes our lives and our sense of self. I believe if we bottle up memories of trauma, if we try to forget instead of shed, we are essentially choosing to retain those memories and they, in turn, shape us, the path we are on, and hence, the rest of our lives.

This is what that book was about. Although it was a psychological thriller, I felt the author truly was trying to make a statement.

The book in itself was very interesting. I flew threw it. It was an easy read and was in simple language that even a teenager would enjoy. My only fear is that this, like so many other books I have grown to hate, have become a series and that the quality of the work will decline as the pressure of minting money intensifies.

Passenger to Frankfurt

This book was a total disaster. Which is surprising, since this is an Agatha Christie. I guess it was one of the few that bombed but it was so far from what you would expect.

Obviously, she was out of her depth when she wrote this. It was meant to be a sattrical spy thriller. Unfortunately, it was just a bore. The cover may be beautiful, but the contents were far from it. So much so that as soon as I closed the book (and I remember I was on the verge of abandoning it), I promptly forgot everything about it. I don’t even remember the characters, the plot, or anything else about it.

I guess I am writing this review so that somewhere down the line, when I feel like re-reading some books or reading Agatha Christie and come upon this book, I remember I wrote this review and decide against re-reading it.

Agatha Christie – A lesson in life

Strip away the impressions, the opinions, the color, the language barriers and you will be left with the pure beating heart of cold facts.

If it’s one thing I’ve learnt from Agatha Christie, from Hercule Poirot, from any good detective story; this is the way to live life. Get as many versions of the same story as you can, and the truth will always reveal itself. You will, of course, have to do the main job of “cleaning the data” so to speak. Sifting through the bullshit people aim at you, in the hopes of convincing you of their version. DON’T FALL FOR IT!

Collect all versions of the truth and then glean what you will from it. That is what I have learnt. I am currently in a research class and one of our instructors spent an hour and a half trying to drill the same fact into my head, and I told him, “Hey! Don’t preach to the converted!”. I don’t know how or when I learnt this lesson. Maybe it was from all my reading of Agatha Christie. I think it is also one reason I don’t take anything people tell me at face value. I know there is always going to be a catch. Another side to the story that I am not being told. Or even a different side to the same coin. People’s opinions are colored by who they are and what they think of themselves. “Self concept” so to speak. I am realizing this about myself too.

Get as many opinions and impressions and versions and editions and stories. It’ll make it easy to strip away the prejudices, the biases and be left with only the truth.

It scares me sometimes; not knowing who I am. The way people see me, perceive me. I live in a bubble in my head. My boyfriend tells me I think too much. This is probably true but is it such a bad thing? I know I have tunnel-vision when it comes to a lot of things. I assume too much most of the time too. I am trying to change that about myself. Or at least trying to control it. I wish I could see myself from the perspective of those who really do care about me. At least for their sake, I would want to become a better person.

And diff ’ring judgements serve but to declare, That truth lies somewhere, if we knew but where. -William Cowper, Hope

Anyways, I digress. This book really did remind me of this theme I have been rattling about for so long. The book is beautiful. The cover, more so. I think it is one of my favorites from Christie. The story illustrates that people’s version of events might be incredibly skewed because of their own perceptions and opinions. However, if you really want to, you can find the truth of something if you try really hard. The hard part is sifting through the non-sense and coming out with the nugget of gold that you will polish into the truth; fitting the puzzle pieces so that they make sense and form a whole picture, instead of badly told stories.

 

At Water’s Edge

This book seemed like a pretty decent read. It was easy and fast-paced enough to hold my interest. I realized slowly that I did not much like the insidious chauvinistic undertones this novel carries. I was starting to get really angry towards the end of the book, however, the author did attempt to redeem the book and the protagonist.

Honestly, I cannot feign to understand authors today. I’ve been reading quite a few books by female authors these days and the one repeating theme I see is that each of them either paints the picture of a woman who is an alcoholic and a drama queen or a helpless damsel in distress who needs “saving” of some sort. Each woman is shown to be weak and dependent either on alcohol or on a man. This book was no different.

The book began with the character being a self-obsessed, self-absorbed stuck-up society girl, who grows into an empathetic woman and realizes everything that is wrong with her environment and the people she has been surrounded by. What I don’t understand is how or why she has to go on this journey of self-discovery by learning how to do housework, sweeping floors, and making beds. Understandably, it shows that she is growing sympathetic to the plights of the help; what I don’t understand is why she didn’t choose to go on this journey by instead learning to attend to soldiers hurt in the war (which, honestly, would have made me respect her a tad more). In any case, by helping around the house, she wins the love and respect of the manager of the inn. Another problem here: why does a man only seem to fall in love with a woman who tries to change herself by learning how to work in the kitchens? What kind of example are you trying to set? What are you inspiring female readers to become?

One other thing that drew my attention was that each of these books that supposedly are a journey of a woman on “self-discovery” in some way involve a man, who somehow acts as a catalyst for this woman to “better” herself. This man is always painted as a through-and-through hero, who, literally in this case, comes back from the jaws of death and who dispatches a few to the fate that was to be his. I don’t understand the need for these characters in this book. At least, The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl didn’t have a patriarchal figure who had to “save” them or help them improve themselves, and under whose watchful, encouraging <lustful> eyes the protagonist realized she could be and have so much more.

The book painted these characters to be so completely evil or so completely good, I’m surprised she didn’t discover their flaws earlier. Only after being hauled across the Atlantic ocean (and because she was sea-sick the entire time) did she realize how callous and selfish her husband truly is. The character came off as shallow. I loved the journey, to the extent that it was believable. Does it really take war and a life in squalor to humble us? And if she realized so much about herself, in being shallow, how could she not, upon reflection, not come to understand the position of her father and feel sorrow and pity for him?

What I did like about the book was that it made the character realize that the boundaries between the servants and the upper-class were man-made and just existed in her mind. She did become empathetic and sympathetic. Her self-discovery, like I said earlier, was enjoyable to an extent. The book was an easy-read and I finished it in about two days so I don’t feel too bad about reading it. I’d give it a solid 3.5 stars for solid writing style, even though there was a lot wrong with the characters, I thought.

Also, there wasn’t much about the Loch Ness monster in it. Which I was really excited and was hoping for. Disappointed.

Maggot Moon

This book is for kids? I beg to differ. This book is for adults. Yes, kids may read it. Will kids “get” it? I am not so sure. Yes, the language is easy to read and easy to grasp. Yes, the font is so huge, you’d think a blind person would be able to read the book. But this book is not just for kids. It’s meant to be read by adults too.

An alternate-reality science-fiction, this book is set in the time of the space race and nations trying to get to the moon. The book was so eerie, I thought it was set on the moon {also thanks to the title that deceived me into thinking so}. It was firmly set on earth but oh, what a dystopian future! The book was writ from the point-of-view of a 15-year-old, who can’t read or write too well but who’s intelligence is to be rivalled. He shows us his world, where ethnic cleansing is the norm, specially with the killing of those “flawed” in some ways. He told us of how people “disappeared” in the middle of the night, including his parents; where food was sparce, television was a banned commodity, a luxury not allowed; and where spies ran underfoot telling on each other, having “detectives” show up and take people away to be “re-educated” or to just become “maggot-meat”. The country was ruled by the likes of a regime analogous to the Nazis (there was no mention of a name except that the country had a black and red flag – very telling of the ideology in power) and whose morality and values, rife with oppression and authorotarian policing.

The book, however, told the story of this kid, who was bullied at school because he had heterochromatia (one blue eye and one brown), who had trouble breathing and who wore short-pants instead of the long-pants, that were a sign of esteem in his school. It was a story of an underdog, who in his own way, stood up and single-handedly brought around a hopeful revolution, bringing down the entire regime. The hero, who was the only solution and the only hope to a desperate people. And he did it not for himself, but to save his friend or his love. It was a heart-wrenching story and the message is as clear as day. You have to be a special kind of stupid, to take this story just at face-value.