There are a lot instances where we could’ve died in the past, so I find it quite amazing that we ended up here, still breathing and relatively unscathed, in this reality. It’s one of those feelings that keeps me in a constant state of bewilderment, and I’m not sure if it’s a state I ever want to leave. I think about it like how I’m writing on my bed again, like I was doing around this time last summer, like I was doing around this time the summer before. I don’t think much has changed between every instance I write on my bed. Stylistically, my writing has remained fairly consistent. Content-wise, I have switched from being sad to being bored, which to some people are one and the same.
At any instance in time, we aren’t able to conceptualize the entirety of the past. At most, we are only able to remember a specific moment. When we do not recall a specific moment, we have an impression of a particular time, but never access to the same precision as that of a memory. In that sense, the only thing grounding our identity is this inkling that the past happened at all. In other words, we take it on faith that the past happened, and we don’t need to actually remember the past for us to believe that the past has affected us.
If you drink too much on a night out and black out, did the previous night even happen?
I’m not too sure. Can you be affected by something that you can’t even remember? If you have a really good conversation one night and can’t remember it the next morning, did that conversation happen at all? I’ve always found alcohol to be an interesting substance because individuals can have two completely identities when they are under the influence of alcohol versus when they are sober. When you consume alcohol, you access this friendlier and more outgoing side of yourself that you cannot otherwise access. Yet, I’ve always wondered why this state of friendliness doesn’t persist afterwards. If we remember what it was like to share intimacy with someone through alcohol, why don’t those feelings persist?
At present, we can only be aware of the present. We can only exist in one state at a time. You can’t be both drunk and sober, and you are only able to access one part of your identity at a time. When you are in one state, the other state doesn’t exist. You can access your memories, but that takes it on faith that your memories are accurate at all, which they usually aren’t considering how change is a necessary part of encoding memory. The only certainty that exists is our experiences at a given instance because it is the only state that is not subject to memory, which only represents a distorted echo of a past that doesn’t exist at all.
Something that I’ve always understood but never really quite understood was this idea that you only exist when you are aware that you exist. When you are sleeping, you aren’t really aware of your own existence. In that state, you are not aware. If you are not aware that your past exists, then it does not exist. If you don’t exist in the future, then then the future does not exist. The only existence that truly exists is the existence we devote attention to. As long as our existence is grounded in the present — which it inevitably is as long as we are conscious of the present– we can only exist in the present in separation from the past and future. I consider this idea to be simultaneously freeing and crippling.
Some things may have happened to us in the past. Although we may still have memories, these events no longer exist because the past does not exist. Although we are affected by events that happen to us in the past, there is nothing necessitating the past exist at all. If we simply forget about the past, then the past never happened at all.
I was discussing with my friend the other day whether nostalgia necessarily defines the past in a positive light. I thought yes, and she thought no. Ultimately, we agreed that nostalgia is, above all, a state of indulgence, regardless of whether the past is viewed in a positive light nor not. If we enter a state of nostalgia, then we become detached from the present, so the present no longer exists and the past is the only thing that exists for certain at that particular moment. It is a reality that only exists because we assign reality to it. Yet, our memories is a perception of a mental construction of sensation, which is a lesser state to direct perception of sensation itself. Through indulging in nostagia, we reject the world that exists for the world we create.
Nostalgia separates our emotional existence from our physical existence, and that gives me bad vibes. The past doesn’t have to exist unless we want it to exist. I find that idea to be quite liberating — the fact that the only thing that holds us onto the past is the memory of the past. So why not forget?
I prefer to just look at the past as a night out, regardless of whether it was a good night or a bad night. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It happened, and nowe we are in the present, our memories of the previous night slowly decaying. Sometimes, we attempt to hold onto this memory because we believe our “true” identities to reside in the past in a moment when we were more authentic to ourselves. I consider this way of thinking to be a bit of a cop-out. I don’t think at any moment in time we move further away from our identity unless we choose to do so. At any moment in time, we can establish any identity we want. We do not need to cling onto the past unless we fear the freedom of the present.
A big reason we cannot forget about the past is because we find ourselves reminded of the past on occasion. This, is what I imagined what Sartre meant when he says, “Hell is other people.” If we forget that other people exist, then we can forget that we exist, and that’s a sensation to cherish. A lot of how we contextualize our self-worth depends on how we compare ourselves to others. If we feel more successful than the people around us, then we feel more satisfied in our lives. Vice versa, if we feel less successful than the people around us, then it does not matter how successful we are in life because it is not enough. If the need to escape the past is value-dependent on our present environment, all we need to do to escape the past is to reform our present with pure novelty.
Since around last year, everything about the past seems more and more dream-like. There were so many cold night I remember walking back to my dorm feeling so lonely and longing for this reality that may or may not have existed at all. But those cold nights feel more and more like a dream. I used to be able to recall the stinging winter winds as I took my phone out of my pocket to change the song, but I can’t feel that anymore. This was my past, but I’m choosing to negate it. The neat thing about not having a particularly good college experience is that you don’t need to worry about peaking in college. You don’t need to worry about all that “college is the best years of your life” jargon. It’s like I woke up from a bad dream, and now I have the rest of my life to live the best life.