A few months ago, I ventured on a path to rid of all the unneeded necessities I surround myself with. My first victim: my room. I managed to box up old childhood memories and a many more that
are only of use when reminiscing. I was determined to lock everything away fearing those that I kept so precious were the very ones keeping me from moving forward. And along with those treasured moments, I wanted to rid myself of all the bitterness as well. My theory was, if perhaps I managed to clear the spaces that physically surround me, the self-imposed shackles that I had chained myself in would magically disappear as well. In theory, or at least in my head, that made sense. Theory tested, theory unsuccessful.
But my illogical experimental theory was not entirely tried in vain. I had a sudden epiphany, as I like to call it, when I had reached to trashing old projects from college. I had come across my senior project from about four years ago. It was based on my thesis paper: The Transition. An idea inspired by surrealist Salvador Dali and his famous painting, La Persistencia de la Memoria. My thesis paper was pages after pages of research, opinions and theories of scientists and artists relating to how our brain processes and stores memory, how and why only certain memories come back to us amidst life and death, better known as the transition. Rooted to the concept of Dali’s La Persistencia de la Memoria: when we are asleep, or unconscious, time does not persist, only memories do. Though often we are plagued with uncertainties between what is real and made up, there are details that lead us to the truth. As carefully depicted in Dali’s La Persistencia de la Memoria, there is a fine line between what is real and unreal; where only in the shade does Time seem to melt away the distorted objects as opposed to the definite structure of the mountains and water under the sun-lit area. In a way, perhaps Dali was trying to convey the difference between how we perceive objects in our subconscious and conscious. When I was writing my paper, I had interpreted the painting quite differently. The shade, to me, was reality. In my mind, I had believed that people allow hardship and deprivation to eat Time away, like how the ants gather to the only clock in the painting that has not been disfigured. I had considered the lit space as the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ where objects are concrete, relating to how at the end of one’s life, does he begin to truly understand the true fundamentals of life. This approach was tailored to the paper I was writing at the time, passively ignoring Freud’s influence during the time Dali had painted La Persistencia de la Memoria. Also having Dali purposefully mislead people with ridiculous explanations about his paintings, all we really can do is assume.
Not to bore anyone with an endless monologue of fact-finding studies for the senior’s exhibition, I had tweaked the concept a bit and decided on composing a book of how one thought skips to another in a span of forty-five minutes. The senior project was mainly a compilation of hand-drawn illustrations, photographs and typography how one thought turned into recent and almost-forgotten memories.
The content of the book was actually irrelevant to the realisation I had. It was the idea how I had forgotten how important memories were that had me contemplating where I was going wrong. As much as a few would claim it is possible to forget the past, and as much as we want to believe there is some truth and possibility to the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there really isn’t.
So I understood that I couldn’t let go of my memories, whether it was possible or not. But understanding the logic behind it does not make them any easier to deal with. Two months ago, my sisters and I camped amongst seventy-plus strangers from all over the world for six days. In our first day of Hajj, we all took turns sharing our troubles and prayers. We all sought answers to different questions. It was no surprise by the end of each day there was not a single dry eye in our tent. Where there had been so much anger and resentment, it is only natural to be reluctant to trust the world again. We have learnt that though we may pray for strength and hope, all is unattainable without submission. It is only through the acceptance of our past and our memories that will help us back on our feet.
‘Somehow, with the passage of time, and the deadline life imposes, surrendering became the right thing to do.’
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture (2008)