“. . . it is memory that makes us who we are; without it we
are forever trapped in the moment, with no window on the past
or the future.” H. Lee Hagan.
Is this true? Are we only our memories? I’ve always thought the present was what defined me, my current actions in a particular circumstance. But the present is infinitely small. There it is. Gone. There it is again. Gone. It’s too small to measure. By the time you agree on the present it’s now the past. And although the future is infinitely large, we can not define ourselves based on something that hasn’t happened yet. So, maybe this is right. Memories make us who we are.
However, it’s been scientifically proven that our memories are fallible. Much of what we remember has been distorted through time, altered by prejudices, and siphoned of detail. So, our memories of ourselves are not what really happened. What REALLY happened is gone. We are not what we remember. What about others? Other people have memories of us which define us through their eyes. But we can’t count on them, their memories of us are just as bad, just as jaded. Who are we, then?
I have an image of myself, of the man I was, and the man I became, but it is false because it is based on the flimsiest of truths, memory. So who am I? I come back to the present, no matter how small a time that is, as what defines me. It’s not necessarily what I have done, but what I’m doing that makes me the person I am. And although what you have just read is in the past, and you may not remember it exactly, in this season of giving and forgiveness it is not the ghosts of the past, or the spectres of the future, but the people and the actions of the present that define who you are.