Things We Remember

We go through life collecting things. Why?

Photo albums, pictures, souvenirs, keepsakes, receipts, old plane tickets, old movie tickets, old concert tickets, old love notes from high school...things we picked up along the way...

Hoarders, all of us.

Well, some worse than others.

These things we collect have a purpose, other than taking up way too much room in our personal spaces and creating an impossible clutter. However, the reason, although it makes sense to us completely, simultaneously does not make sense. I propose that we habitually continue this pack rat behaviour because of a vulnerability that is particular to humans. It is the problem of identity - the problem of never knowing who we are.

We are almost always lost in thought. As much as this is a social world, we always have to force ourselves into it because it is simultaneously an individual world in which we are always locked within ourselves. We experience the world first and foremost alone, but together. I think that life is this struggle to create a self in the real world - the world that is happening right now that we can see and touch and hear and navigate. This world has structure and can be organized much more easily than this other world we live in - our minds.

How hard is it to organize your thoughts? How hard is it to really know what you want and what's motivating you and what the true nature of your being is? These are important questions that all put one's identity in the limelight. We put a lot of pressure on knowing ourselves. As if knowing yourself is the key to all the answers - as if it is the answer to all of this. The truth is that we will never really know ourselves, for several reasons. The first reason is that we are constantly changing "who we are". We are never the same person from day to day - mentally and biologically. Our thoughts, beliefs and values are constantly changing, and so is our body and the atoms that we are comprised of. We shed skin, and new skin replaces it.

So why do we collect things? We collect things to remind ourselves of who we are.

I did that.
I accomplished this.
I am this, or that.
All of this is who I was, and who I am.

We try to create a history: a time line comprised of things. Keepsakes that jog the unconscious memory. It is tangible, undeniable proof of the self; that we exist and were shaped by these experiences. We try to trick ourselves into a time portal. We look backwards to reaffirm our present selves. We never look forward, because we think that the future cannot define us if it has not happened yet. However, I think the future has just as much power in establishing who we are for this very reason. It hasn't happened yet, so the possibilities are endless. You can be whoever you want to be, instead of being bound to a version of someone you were, but aren't anymore.

I think I'll always keep my little life souvenirs, but I'll start thinking about them in a new way. They don't define me. I define them and I give them meaning. I define myself. I like to remember the past, because it makes me smile, and sometimes cry.  So, even though I don't need them, I'm not going to burn them in some ceremonial re-birth bonfire. I don't need to, and also, I can't afford the permit. However, what you and I, and everyone else should know is that we are ourselves all the time whether we know it or not. Also, we, our bodies mind and souls, are pretty much just one big life size souvenir of the past anyways.

Arianne Tong2 Comments