Thursday, April 8, 2010

By Morning, You'll Be Gone

"Please let me keep this memory, just this one."

Clearly, I've been watching Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind too much lately, but it's impossible to watch the film without asking yourself the same question going through the character's minds:

If you could erase someone from your memory, and therefore your life, would you?

For me, the answer is a resounding no. Perhaps it's because I've never experienced anything awful enough. Or maybe it's just that I cherish the happy memories too much to banish the darkest pains. It could be that it's simply because I'd need a full on lobotomy to truly forget certain people, because anything and everything makes me think of them. But maybe, it's because deep down, I know it wouldn't really work.

Have you ever noticed, upon meeting someone, that you're inherently drawn to them for no logical reason? A total stranger with whom you have an instant connection. You can't explain it, or rationalize it, you just feel it. And maybe later, you try to get them out of your life. You try to forget them completely. But it's not quite so simple.

In fact, it's downright strange. Chance meetings turn into unexpectedly meaningful affairs, and there are events and people you think are going to have a huge impact on your life that all of a sudden, you can't remember. In conversation with my mother recently, I came to the startling realization that I couldn't remember all of my teachers in high school, and had done things I don't remember doing. And yet, someone I meet purely by chance manages to lodge themselves immovably in my memory.

In the opening scenes of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we watch the two main characters coincidentally wind up mindlessly wandering the same beach. Later, they wind up on the same train, and, as if by pure magnetics, shift closer and closer to each other as the ride progresses, engaging in the casual conversation of two people who seem to be strangers. It's not until later that we realize this is actually a repeat experience for them both.

They go to all the trouble of erasing each other from their lives only to run into each other again and fall into the same bond they had before. Even when placed together as strangers, there's something in their natures that draws them to each other. I think it would be the same for any of us. We're drawn to people, often for no reason that we can understand. And for better or worse, they break into our lives and rearrange our furniture and change our perspectives and sometimes turn things entirely on their head. But would we even know who we were if that was suddenly taken away? Every experience we have in our lives shapes us. Could the person I am today even function if all of those middle bits were suddenly ripped out? Is forgetting the pain worth the risk of destroying progress?

Do I think that we would be destined to meet these people we long to forget? No. Do I think we're doomed to relive our mistakes if we don't make them, and learn from them? Yes.

Every horrible thing that has happened to me has taught me something. Every person who has hurt me has made me stronger. I don't assume that things would happen the same way twice. Perhaps, if I erased someone, I'd never run into them again in my life. But if I did run into them, perhaps there's something that's simply inherent in both of us that would draw us together again. And perhaps, without realizing that we'd made the same mistakes already, we'd make them again, and things would continue on in an endless loop. Maybe, with so many things I've lived and learned taken out, my personality would revert back to the way it was, and repeating would be inevitable. And as I watched the end of the film, I knew even if I erased you, I'd fall in love with you all over again.

So I turn the question now to you: If you could erase someone from your memory, and therefore your life, would you?


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