They say that every moment we have experienced is available to us stored away in those dusty filing cabinets at the back of our minds. I wonder how they are filed? Are they stored by date or activity or a mixture of the two, numerically or alphabetically, by event or by some far more random association driven system waiting to flicker up onscreen with just the right trigger?
There are some days from my past I think I remember from start to finish in detail. But when I try to recall that detail it seems I only remember a fraction of what must have happened. Did I put extra salt on the chicken served on my wedding day? What vegetables were served? Was the chicken in a sauce? What was the pudding? What colour was my underwear?
It seems I only remember the things that have stuck in my mind. Memorable days and events glued into my recollection. Sometimes I pick up a book and realise (after 100 pages or more) that I’ve read it before. Now I’ve read a lot of books, but surely I should remember reading them all shouldn’t I? The same goes for films and television. After twenty minutes of watching I remember the ending, so what is the point of continuing to watch?
I wonder what it would be like if we really did remember everything? Every moment of our lives, each second, every cup of coffee, all the words of every conversation we’ve ever had, each waking, each falling asleep, the name and face of every person we’ve ever met, every news report, each and every word we’ve ever read. Would it be so overwhelming that it would change us as a people, or would we simply shut down unable to absorb any more data like a computer whose memory is full?
It’s all there though, all that detail, way back in that backroom of my brain, hidden away within my subconscious. All I need to be able to do is access it. But do I really want to? Do I really want to remember every slight, every unkind word, every slap and punch, every argument, every embarrassment, every bad thought I’ve ever had, each person I’ve let down, every lie I’ve told, every dagger slipped into my heart? And do I really want to remember every terrible event – the rapes, plagues, wars, murders, disasters - that I’ve seen, heard and read about in the media over the last fifty-six years?
Yes, I think that total recall must be a frightening thing and I don’t think I want to find out where it could take me and what I might become if I went with it.