The Story of My Life

Sunni's picture

Is just that: a story.

Sometimes it’s a tale full of woe that we weave; other times we imagine ourselves the hero; for some, victimhood sucks them in and becomes a trap they cannot seem to escape. But they are all stories we tell ourselves—stories we spin out of the experiences of our lives in an attempt to create coherence out of coincidence, permanence out of the evanescent ... a fabric out of fringe. We can’t help but do it, pattern–seeking and –loving monkeys that we are.

But these stories are patterns we create, and ofttimes we weave them out of nothing more substantial than vapor. Confronted with that reality, many of us refuse to see it, clinging ever more tightly to the story. How much more truly free we would be if we could recognize that our stories are so often just another kind of chain, keeping us trapped in a place we never wanted to be in and don’t much like.

Most of the time, the stories of our lives that we tell others, and try to convince ourselves of, are more lie and wishful thinking than truth.

I have started to glimpse these things ... putting it into daily practice remains a real challenge, however.

Hmmmmm. So is ignoring your

Hmmmmm. So is ignoring your past the only way to avoid that?

No.

So is ignoring your past the only way to avoid that?

As Pat has already pointed out, there’s value in facing one’s past. What I was trying to say, and she touched on this point too, is that too often we stay there, rather than being engaged in the moment. That’s especially true when the stories we’ve woven out of air keep us from trying something new.

I think this is a good place for dropping in my favorite [for once that’s an easy choice!] Cat Stevens song:


(View the vid on YouTube)

Perhaps so.

Dullhawk asked, “So is ignoring your past the only way to avoid that?”

Psychology says that _facing_ the past is the only way to complete the story. But the aborigine says that every life has a “story” to tell — and only time will tell it.

Time should bring knowledge and maturity, and with that, comes growth and change. We are what we are, and we worry too much about what we have been. Living in the present will more satisfactorily discard the vapors and dreams and “lies” of our past — and help direct us to our future.

"Lies?"

Sure, some of what we tell ourselves about the past are not strictly the whole truth, but not all are destructive. In my experience, I discovered that self acceptance - warts and all - is far more important and constructive for peace and joy than any worry about most inaccuracies of memory.

Use the non-aggression principle on yourself as well as others.

I learned to be honest enough to root out harmful delusions and rationalizations, but still admit the fact that nobody is ever going to be perfect at this and give myself some slack.

It's a work in progress. :)

“Lies, lies, lies, lies ...”

Oops, sorry—got stuck in a Violent Femmes song for a moment there.

When I said “lies”, I didn’t mean the small exaggerations, etc., that we all craft. Some people outright fabricate swaths of their past, e.g., claiming military service or even honors when one didn’t serve.

That said, I’m much less interested pondering the veracity of my story than I am dropping it, stepping outside it. And yes, it is a lifetime of work.

Perception

Quite an interesting thread you've unraveled here, Sunni. It makes me think of the cop/lawyer shows on television when the accounts of eye-witnesses are scrutinized and found to be contradictory with each other. The problem is first one of perception, then of memory and the perception of the memory.

We all have a different way of perceiving the world around us. I remember a great R.A.Wilson essay I read a year or two back about perceptions and reading Nietzsche (I'll have to search it out in my del.icio.us feed later to link) wherein he said his perception was changed and it was like reading a whole new book, even though he had read them before. So the way we record stuff to memory is like a snapshot of our perceptions at the time.

When recalling these memories, our current perceptions color the way we see the memory and not the original events. Most of the time this is harmless and unintentional. But, like you point out, sometimes these can be deliberate lies. A lie is a lie is a lie. Of course, the psychology of our brains can also hide stuff or make sweeping changes for various reasons, and this is called sickness these days, making the rooting out and coping with such events to be considered healthy.

An interesting, and personal, example of the stored perceptions in our memories would be the experiment I did to write about some deceased grandparents using only the stuff I remember directly (and not found out later as I grew older). It was a fun exercise to write the memories of a small child and the stuff that stuck out: smells, ambiance, tone, and feelings more than events and narrative. Someday when I finish transcribing these memories I'll have to share with everyone. It is fun, though!

PoS

Murphy's Bye-Laws

Very interesting

That would be very interesting to read. I don't know how you can remember early events without having them colored or influenced by later impressions and information.

I've tried very hard to remember early childhood experiences, and I'd have to say that those things I "remember" are tied to family stories told often, trauma or other serious high points - and I have no way to know what, if anything, is a true personal memory of the original event and what has been added by others as those events were shared later.

A few that might be exceptions are those memories triggered by photographs. My sister showed me some old photos she found after our mother died - photos that I had never seen. But those were fragmentary memories at best, and no more reliable than the others perhaps. I just don't know.

Strictly Speaking

I wasn't terribly dogmatic about recording the memories, which, in some of the farthest back memories are likely just impressions anyway. I actually said in one that I couldn't conjure the face of my Grandfather directly, but all mental images were of the man in a picture prominently displayed for years. I started this project to jog my memory and to encourage other family members to do the same to patch together some sort of history because there wasn't much talk of it. So it was the lack of current and updated information that spawned the project in the first place!

PoS

Murphy's Bye-Laws

Perceptive observations

We all have a different way of perceiving the world around us.

As well as a unique context in which we try to organize our experiences. This doesn’t mean, as some have tried to argue, that there is no external reality—just that our interactions with it are necessarily unique.

Your experiment is intriguing. Alas, I think I’m old enough now that I cannot separate family stories from my own memories, in most cases.