Upside Down: A Day Without Memory

Upside Down

Few thoughts on the role of memory in our lives through a fictional account of how I woke up one day to find that the world had turned upside down

I had my feet to the ceiling and head towards the floor. I saw a person, working on a notebook, right side up. Going by his expressions he was seeing me the right way up. Confused with what had happened, I looked in the mirror to find my image upside down. Maybe something within me had changed.

Whatever the cause was I must confess this: It was a relieving experience like one never before in my entire life! Everything around was happening spontaneously. To the extent that I couldn’t remember what happened in the moment previous.

This is a first person account of what I learnt about memory that day.

Role of memory

Memory paints our every experience. Every sunset seems like one the day before. However it is a new event each day.

Memory is undeniably a major reason for our success and failure in the kind of society we have built which is information dependent for its smooth functioning. It is memory which helps determine our place each day in the social sphere. Right from infancy we are programmed to create an identity including establishing our body parts to naming relations. Later in life, we take for granted the role memory plays, except when we stumble into experiences which introduce a temporary space between ourselves and the accumulated memories.

Why is it fun to memorize some things better than the other? The pleasure offered by the process or a sudden challenge forces us to memorize things. That is what most of the primary schooling is based on: creating ways to lure students into learning something. If you liked the way a teacher taught in school it is primarily because the experience fascinated you. When the pleasured offered becomes a memory, the students gradually start seeking more of it and endsup finding more about the subject taught.

Memory and Creativity

The role memory plays in creativity is both significant and otherwise at the same time. Memory plays a major role in the expression of any creation. For instance, if you can’t remember and play the notes well it is difficult to express the new tune formed in your mind.
Does memory in itself provides the stimulus of creation? Surely not! If it were so, every one of us would have been a creative individual. Creation is a happening.

Memory and Happiness
The term happiness is subjective. Each one of us has a different picture about it. If something pleasurable doesn’t happen, we slip back to nostalgias in no time, which is like repeatedly reading a work of fiction for the sake of pleasure.

Isn’t it surprising that we even remember the taste of food consumed many years ago?

Is memory the problem maker?
Every-day we are programmed by events happening to us. Then we look through the previous experiences at everything happening around. Although this helps in certain situations, imagine memories turning up uncalled for. And this is indeed a reality for some!

Memory helps you remember your supposed enemy as equally as your friends. Once we categorize a person by his thoughts (which change with time for all of us!) hardly are we able to see him in a fresh light again.

Any memory strengthens the more we use it. It becomes like the bed of a river flowing for decades to the ocean. Every time it rains the water follows the same route except by some event which may change the flow – like the experience I had!

What would it be like to live without memory, at least for some time? Fascinating or frightening? We can only speculate.
If you want to surprise yourself, meet Clive Wearing: the man with 30 second memory: