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?

Social niceties

The brain is mutable. It changes all the time, a disconcerting amount, in fact. It changes based on the lighting around you, the weather, what you eat, whom you talk to, the way you sit, even what you wear. The consistency of the brain is like custard, and its makeup is more like a forest than a computer, always alive, rustling, changing.

– Your Brain at Work

Never having been reined in by social necessities, the brain grew unrestrained and uncontrolled in every direction it saw. It bloomed and blossomed into this unbridled beast that absorbed everything it saw and used it to grow rampant. And yet it was aware of its own growth; self-aware and capable of watching itself as it broke all social boundaries and grew unhindered. It absorbed everything. Every thing considered an obstacle became a lesson; everything else was a blessing. The mind grew into something so intelligent, it could cut you with its razor sharpness. And yet there was this innocence, that comes from having lived inside of itself for so long. Social niceceties are beyond it. People liked it for the innocence; left it for fear of its intelligence.

People attribute its intelligence to everything they could think of, so as to make themselves feel better for not being it or having it. For not having its abilities. They attribute it to age, or to studying, or not really having a social life. And all this is ok as long as they don’t see its learning curve. It is vertical. It is unstoppable.

Turmoil

I wrote this years ago, when I was having trouble at my workplace and social politics. Over the years, I have come across a lot of people like this, and this post and this significant change in my attitude has always seen me through. It has helped me through life and not just at work.


When the mind is in conflict with the environment, two things can happen; you either run or you adjust your attitude. I tried to run. But then I thought that no one was going to make me do anything I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t going to run. No one could make me. I think this was the best change of attitude that I’ve had in a while. It really made me think that I haven’t really stood up for myself and if I ran now, it wouldn’t be BECAUSE of so and so. It would be because I gave up on myself. So I decided to stay and take measures that would allow me to adjust my attitude instead.

So when I realize that people slack off and leave their work to be done by others, I said ok. I’ll do their work. This is an organization and more than that; a field where no one can proclaim your work as their own. And since the brands are now not divided amongst the Art Directors, no one person can claim that they handled an entire big brand etc on their own. So if I did do some work on “brand”, it would be mine. It would go in my portfolio as my own. With my name on it. Even though I wouldn’t be able to claim that the entire brand was handled by me, my work would speak for itself no matter where I went.

Having thought of things in this way, I was appeased and realized that I would never say “No” to any work that was assigned to me, no matter how much pressure I was under. And things seem to be working out. Even though everything is still fresh and the wounds seem to have been buried. Let’s hope things change with my attitude.

I guess all that matters is a change in attitude. Things always seem to fix themselves. After all it is always just your perception and how you see things. What you allow to bother you and what you seem to consider inconsequential. I’ve stopped showing or thinking of anything that in the least bit matters to me or bothers me.

Obviously I realized that my work-ethic is very different from everyone else’s. So many things don’t matter to me that matter to others. Whereas, so many other things matter to me that don’t matter to others. For example things like coming to work and making it your first priority are things that matter to me. Responsibility and investment into the content of what is going out there in your name also matters to me. The need to learn constantly and to keep moving forward, thats also something that I’m starting to hold very dear to me. It’s the little things that matter. I think, I need to relax a bit and stop putting things on such a pedestal.


It worked out. I stayed at that job for 3 years, being promoted to a Senior Art Director. I handled many big brands and became one of the most trusted Art Directors in the agency. Brands loved my work and appreciated it publically. I left the agency with my head held high and my pride more than intact.

One other thing I realized then was, life is not in statis. It is constantly moving. People were going to come and people were going to go. It was up to me to decide who I wanted to keep, and who I wanted gone. This thought has helped me tolerate a lot of people’s bullshit. It has also allowed me to keep my sanity; knowing and understanding that I will rid my life of the parasites who are stupid enough to think I am stupid and who are currently and forever trying to leech off of me.

Texture

You don’t know me well enough to be able to feel the rich texture of the tapestry that is my life. You don’t feel the rough coarseness of the bad patches, or the light silkyness as the good patch as it slips through your fingers. You don’t have the ability to see the complexity as the threads weave into each other, some appearing and others disappearing. You can’t see the bigger picture, the beauty of the tapestry coming together that forms my whole being and you can’t see the embellishments and the details of the stitch up close. You can’t feel the grain of the paint that’s been roughly splotched on to my canvas and you can’t appreciate the fineness of the gradient as one color blends into the next. You can’t feel the damage or the rips or the wear-and-tear of my most treasured bits of my life. I covet this damage. It has made me who I am today.

What you see is a blur of my tapestry. You see it the way the world sees the Mona Lisa; a seemingly inconspicuous ugly painting blurred by the bullet-proof glass it is protected by. I am not inconspicuous. I am not insignificant. I am not a blur. I am sharp. I am powerful. I know what and who I am and I am better than you are because I am aware of myself. Because I can think. Because I have depth. Because I am flawed and I know it and I accept it and I can improve myself.

And if you can’t see that about me; then you don’t deserve me in the first place.

Learn to Learn

Today I need to talk about something really important. I came straight from sociology class so my ideas are fresh in my mind. Today we were talking about rationalization. What is rationalization? Its the action of organizing our lives in a way where we think that we are getting the most out of it. Not the most fun or the most worth or the most quality. No. The most quantity. Where we schedule and plan our lives to the point where everything becomes a chore and nothing is done for the purpose of doing a job well. To the point where the more work we can generate our of an action means more than allowing our actions to be meaningful and worthy.

We talked about a lot of things today. But what struck me was an idea I generated on my own today in class when asked for an example of an area of life that should probably NOT be so rationalized. I thought of education. The words that came out of my mouth were “cookie-cutter education”. How true is that if you think about it? How many of our educational institutions allow us to think creatively? Im living here in the States and I don’t see it. Multiple choice questions and answers, expecting students to memorize textbooks, not forcing them to apply what they learn; all of these things contribute to cookie-cutting. They’re making templates out of students. Whoever learns the system better, gets to succeed.

Cram enough information into one class and one lecture and overwhelm the student where they feel like they can’t cope. Don’t get me wrong. I am not that student. I am capable of handling everything and anything anyone throws at me. It’s not overconfidence either. It’s experience. It’s been done. I’ve overcome obstacles people thought were brick walls for me.. It’s everyone else. I see these people who settle for a decent grade and who don’t want anymore. Students who don’t want to learn. Who are not curious. Who don’t ask why. They just want a decent grade so they can get out and do their mundane 9-to-5 jobs, sitting at a desk, pushing papers.

Teachers don’t inspire. Don’t tie what they teach into a bigger picture. Don’t allow the students to have epiphanies. Don’t watch as the students go AHA! and look at their faces with the glow of understanding. Teachers are ok with just making sure that the students have rote learned what they have taught and send them on their way.

Teachers are the same everywhere. I have met very few teachers who have inspired me. Who have made me love their subject and made me want to worship them. Who have made me marvel at their genius; not only because of what their heads are full of but because of their genius in teaching. Because they make me want to know. They hold my interest and force me to be curious. I do remember one place that never reined in my mind. That never leashed it. Mind you, it wasn’t because it was what was best for a person like me, no. It was because no one knew any better and I was free to do as I please because I usually ended up being better than the teachers at it. But I guess thats what teachers should aim for isn’t it? Students who are better than them. That’s what shows that they have succeeded. When they are surpassed by their own students.

I’m getting off topic. There are some teachers here who inspire me. Who give me epiphanies. It is so sad that none of them teach a class which I call my major. If I ever found a teacher that taught computer science the way these teachers taught me sociology and psychology, I don’t think I would ever leave that teacher alone for more than a minute.

Teachers need to teach their students how to learn to learn.

That is all a teacher ever needs to do. Not cram information into a child’d head. But to inspire the child to go look for him/herself. Even if it means he/she doesn’t get straight A’s in every subject.

Ok I don’t mean that. Students should get straight A’s in every subject OKKKKK.

There’s a name for people like me. I’m an Escapist.

“The definition of an escapist is someone who escapes from reality and retreats into fantasy.”

That’s me. That’s who I am.

I live in a world I’ve built in my head. Suffice to say I have a very active imagination. Meet me in real life and you will never be able to tell that I live a lot of my life in my head; this dream world I escape into so I don’t have to deal with reality. It’s not that my life in real is horrible or not worth living; it’s just a habit I formed as a child when my life really truly was horrible and I just wanted an escape into a life I dreamt up.

The fantasies themselves have changed with time. They’ve grown old with me. They become what I feel I need at the time. Successful job!? BAM! New dream! Head of animation at Pixar?! No big deal! Big ass games designer!? I own the world and am a billionaire. I dream it all whenever I need it. Whenever life seems to become too much to deal with, I retreat into my world. Broken hearts, major life changes, death of friends and loved ones, that’s how I deal with things.

I don’t know if this is normal honestly. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who does these things or if the majority of this world in living in a fantasy they’ve all created in their heads that they escape reality by. Or if somewhere in my childhood, I been so damaged that I just stopped living in this world and retreated into the safe haven in my mind where nothing is real except for my fantasy and if everyone goes on living their lives like regular people firmly grounded in reality.

I have a feeling I am not the only one who does this. I mean if you consider it, someone had to coin the term “Escapist” right? So there must be a whole bunch of people out there (if not everyone) who deal with life in the same way?

It’s a lot like the movie Matrix then? Take the red pill and come to terms with the harsh reality of your life sucking by the worlds standards; take the blue pill and remain in your fantasy world. So are we all just living in our own little pods, completely isolated from another by our minds? Or are just some of us isolated from the rest of the world? Is this way of dealing with things the best method of getting through life? People say “You’re not really living life” but then I look at things in another way. I am better at moving on when it comes to things that really damage you. People can’t move on for years from anything that hurts them. Me? I just check out the back door and step into my mind. I think it’s a better way of dealing with difficult situations without self-destruction or destroying everything in your wake. Be it grief. Be it heartbreak. Be it anything that shakes your life’s foundations. I stabilize by checking out and then slowly sliding the door open and dealing with things. Or maybe I just don’t deal with them. Maybe I just shut the lid on them while I’m living my fantasy life and never think about it again. I don’t think repression has really caused me any harm. Except that it’s made me delve deeper into my mind at times.

Is there a right way and a wrong way to live life? There are so many questions. Wish I had someone who would answer some of them.

Fear, Darkness and “Nightfall”

For the past three days I have had to live alone in a house that has not been completely renovated. So the paint is peeling in some places, the stairs are rickety, there are no curtains on the windows, the backdoor barely locks and the basement is the scariest, creepiest space in the house yet.

I’ve always found myself pining away for solitude and some time alone, hoping I didn’t have to go to my sisters and that everyone would just leave me alone. Now that I have the entire space to myself, I am scared beyond belief. Mornings are ok. Mornings are great. I cook for the evening, clean the entire house again and again, do some math, do laundry (in the basement), listen to music, watch movies etc it’s all good. Come evening, when the sun sets and it takes with it my peace of mind, all my confidence and leaves behind the fear of being murdered.

Maybe the fear has something to do with the fact that I am watching the X-files all over again. But I highly doubt that. I’m reading “Nightfall” right now, a short story by Isaac Asimov that was expanded into a full novel in collaboration with Robert Silverberg. I had read the short story a long time back and only got around to reading the book now but the thing about the book is how Asimov is capable of introducing and bringing to our attention concepts and ideas that we usually tend to take for granted because we aren’t even aware of them. The ideas and concepts are there somewhere in the back of our head but we are not really conscious of them until and unless we loose them. Or until we read one of his books and marvel at the fact that he can make us so keenly aware of something we just took for granted.

  1. “Nightfall” is about humanity’s innate fear of the unknown. Since we are conscious intelligent beings, we tend to assume that what we know is fact and loose the ability to see things from a different perspective. The book reconciles religion and science for me in a way. Because to me religion has always been about science. It’s just the way you look at things. We fail to understand that information from the past wasn’t just written down and passed as scientific facts. We were given information in the form of stories, fairytales, legends, information was passed on in the form of religion, rituals, traditions, customs. All of these things tell us things. Scientific things. In “Nightfall” the world seems divided into two- the religious nuts and the scientists. The religious prophesies (however vague) are proven to be correct on whole new levels- by a psychologist, an archaeologist, an astronomer. Again, we assume people from the past, our ancestors, didn’t know shit. But what if they knew more than we ever did? And we are just re-discovering everything they knew through science?
  2. The second thing that struck me was how true it was that we just get used to assuming that things are the way they seem to us. We cannot comprehend a world different from ours. We look at a world that is different from ours and just assume that life cannot exist there. But we are so wrong. Life as we know it could not exist on that world. But a different kind of life form could very well thrive there. We need oxygen to survive. Maybe there are other beings out there that don’t. It’s difficult to step out of our shoes and look at the unexplained universe in a different way. We have been so busy trying to explain how things work that we are expected to know all the answers even when we don’t. It’s ok not to know. It’s ok to admit that. It’s ok to be thought of as a fool rather than going down a false path that might take centuries to rectify.
  3. Fear of the darkness doesn’t just exist in books. It is real. Even when living in a world that is engulfed in darkness for half a day, come nightfall, everyone is afraid of being alone or of being outside in the darkness. I don’t know if it is ingrained in us because of survival instinct that has been passed on from our ancestors or because there is just something pleasing about being in the light. There is an innate fear of darkness, even in the world where we should be used to the world going dark for half a day. The absence of light takes away all the confidence and vigor out of a person. I figured this out not only while reading this book but while I watched myself being alone in the house in the day and compared it to my mental state at night.

I love this book. Read it if you have time, because I highly recommend it. If you don’t have the time to read the full novel, take the time to read the short story. It will open your mind to possibilities we could not have imagined. Here’s a link I found to the short story:

http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~rebeccal/lit/238f11/pdfs/Nightfall_Asimov.pdf