My Waking Life: Memory and Perception
At a recent dinner with wonderful creative friends, conversation turned to the topic of memory, and more specifically our perceptions of memory. If you look at our past as this one mass made up of all our life’s memories, it’s tempting to think of this past as a fact, and this mass as solid and firm. But in fact this mass is made up of not one but hundreds of thousands of millions of separate memories, these fluid entities all swirling around and changing, all disparate yet connected. Again, we may follow the fallacy that our memories are fact, when they are anything but. As soon as we step into a room, the facts of what this room looks like begin to slip away as our perception kicks in. Our gaze picks one corner instead of the other, a smell triggers a bad memory, a phone call just before sets our mood. Our freshest memories are merely our perceived sense of reality, not the bare truth. Then the very first time we retrieve that memory from some dusty file drawer recessed in our brain, the wallpaper is recalled as green instead of it’s true faded peach, perhaps an influence of that putrid smell, but either way the memory is changed from fact to fiction, from a near-truth to a twice removed vague likeness.
Five siblings recollecting five very different tales of the same formative years. Two men faced with the same challenge, and where one sees endless joy, the other sees terror and crippling anxiety. It is our perception of the world around us that defines our reality, not the reality that defines our experience as we too often accept for truth. And perhaps those most enlightened can force out all subconscious perceptions of reality, opting instead to keep full control of their own outlook, and perhaps a better perception of our lives could in fact be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One day, I hope to reach that place. For now, I will console myself with the ability to curate my perception of my own memory. I believe that I live a fairly charmed and magical life, but the photographs drawn from my own personal life that I gravitate to tend heighten the fantastical elements of my past. The journalist in me still feels some need to cling to facts and evidence of my own life, but the daydreamer in me simply prefers the rewrite.