How many people do you know from your childhood who hold shared, meaningful memories with you? If someone were to quiz them about some of their most meaningful memories of that time period, and then quiz you about yours, how much alignment would take place? My oldest and youngest brothers are gone, my surviving older brother doesn’t want to talk about the times he lived in our family–my family of me, a biological son and he, an adopted one. My dad doesn’t want to talk about those days–and when he does, he is remembering my childhood from the point of view of a man who was working full-time and juggling his attention between me and three brothers, two dogs and a wife. My mom is dead. A friend or two from elementary school who had connected with me on Facebook–one is a far-left liberal Atheist, the other a lover of NASCAR who has always reminded me of the summer I bullied him after the sixth grade. The other friend who lived across the street has never turned up–who knows what he remembers of me–he was generally ashamed of me and kept our friendship to being a neighborhood one.
You can have shared memories with others, but how many of them are meaningful to the both of you? Some of your best memories of a time and place may have been completely forgotten by the other person and vice versa. And then what happens when everyone with whom you’d ever want to call up and share old memories is gone? You start trying to make the present and future as meaningful as possible, but you know that the dividends will not arrive for many years to come. You occasionally let yourself lapse into some of the old memories as you daydream, or jot a few of them down.
What happens to your sense of self, when you see so many close-knit circles all around you–old friends and siblings who’ve known each other for years who can pause and reminisce and laugh at length when they please? The world starts to look like a place designed and built for someone else–like you are inside another person’s dreams like in the movie Inception, and all of the inhabitants in those dreams are trying their hardest to kick you out? It’s like the world has been playing musical chairs, over and over again, and each time the music stops, you are left standing there, shuffling your feet. And then, it gets really weird, when you’ve always been the outsider, and you suddenly find yourself getting bombarded with people telling you that you have always had it easy, you were the spoiled, privileged one, and that your voice has already been heard by so many other people who look just like you. Does anyone care about the condition of the human stripped of gender, race and sexual orientation? Does anyone care about the condition of the human from the perspective of an individual human being just trying to survive among other human beings? Or, is it impossible to say a global thing about being human?
It often makes you want to make yourself into a machine–a mere passthrough kind of person, passing through DNA to another generation, passing through thoughts that pop into your head to digital paper (and often feeling like you are a secretary for some Higher Intelligence–but not necessarily God, just someone experimenting on/with you), passing through all these different groups you join in life without ever sticking around to drop roots, passing through a thousands books from which you chew the information like a cow chews its cud, and your rumination of the words of others is your primary contribution to that Higher Intelligence that is really just some cosmic computer programmer messing around with your mind–your so-called mind that you claim is all your own to do with as you please.