Tuesday, January 30, 2007


According to John Mighton, the playwright of Half Life, what makes humans different from machines is that we forget. In the interview I heard on CBC Radio one morning, he expressed that sometimes, we forget in order to survive. We forget so that we can look at our world and be able to generalize about events, objects, experiences. The example he gave was that if we were to see our environment with absolute clarity, we would never be able to understand why two robins standing side by side could both be called “robins,” since we would see the minute and infinite differences between each object, each life. But, we forget the details. It's what allows us to go on.

So, how much do our memories define who we are? How much could we forget before we lose ourselves completely? I have relatively few memories of my childhood, yet I try to convince myself and everyone else that my childhood was a mostly happy one. I've been struggling a bit with the concept of “reconstructing” my life through memories. I'm trying to piece together as much as I can possibly remember about growing up, perhaps trying to link all the fragments with the person that I have become. And then what? Maybe it would help me better understand how I had moved from being someone who was confident, who wanted to be the centre of attention, to being someone who is weighed down by insecurities, who would rather not be noticed. I'm beginning to think that perhaps the confident little girl in my mind is actually just a fabrication, that perhaps I was never that girl. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. I think that the little girl in my mind was created out of stories about me told by other people.

I really like Mighton's take on what makes us humans. Perhaps the very act of forgetting what I was really like as a child has allowed me to be the adult that I am today. It's a bit of a paradox, and I adore paradoxes. They bring serendipity and a fluid sense of truth to the everyday.

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