Friday, October 25, 2013

Deconstructing Our Mind

I wonder if we are obsessed by certain thoughts, will we lose our minds or if we are unhappy, will the brains become more susceptible to attack by some plague that damage our brain cells ? I am told that our brains are like sponges and we are constantly absorbing information; thoughts, good or bad, constantly flow out of our heads whether they make sense or not at all.

Our thoughts can hurt or pick us up. Some people are naturally happy and they are the lucky ones, some will brood over even the slightest thing. We have to be  mindful of our thoughts, things we say and do but we may react or respond badly to people who say things we do not agree with. Often people say things the way they say them because that is the way they are . We have to interact with all kinds of people and very often the phrases and things  that we hear are not what we want to hear. When we are worried, defensive or upset, we  definitely do not listen well and lack clarity of thoughts . Ideally we should empty our minds and think of nothing and just focus on the present, but our minds have a mind of their own. Thoughts are fluid so when we are not careful, we may find ourselves saying things that come out sounding all wrong or getting anxiety attacks.

Burgundy - Seurre
 If we sit back and watch our life like watching a movie, most of us will find that such a movie will definitely not make it beyond the slush pile. We may not be able to replay every scene of our life but there are certain scenes that constantly get rewound  in our head and some scenes linger on longer than others. We can remember some moments from our life well but not the others. Some of these memories may get diluted or diffused over time as we are constantly having new experiences. Sometimes we embellish our memories for self-preservation. How we feel about our new experiences is probably dictated by who we are and what we have learnt from all our previous experiences. Some people have this heightened ability to remember every single detail and even a long memory for slights while most of us can only vividly recall what we have selectively committed to our memory, it is like an outline of what has happened and what we remember is a memory of a memory.

I also think that all of us are damaged at some point of time when we are growing up and even as we grow old. Julian Barnes wrote in his novel “ The Sense of an Ending” :

 I certainly believe that we all suffer damage, one way or another. How could we not, except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbours, companions? And then there is the question, on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it, and how this affects our dealings with others. Some admit the damage, and try to mitigate it ; some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged ; and then there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves, at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless, and the ones to be careful of .”

The story is  about how unreliable our memories are and how we are often stuck with the analysis  that is entirely self-referential when we examine and try to explain the events in our lives because we are incapable of looking outside our own head. The author wrote, “ But time…how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time …give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.”
Perhaps it does not matter what we have encountered before and how past experiences have shaped us, what is important is to be able to embrace each day with an open mind and not to remind ourselves about what had gone wrong or what could have been done. After all,the present will soon become the past.

The protagonist, Tony Webster  in his 60s asked himself :Does Character develop over time? In novels, of course it does: otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. But in life? I sometimes wonder. Our attitudes and opinions change, we develop new habits and eccentricities ;but that‘s something different, more like decoration. Perhaps character resembles intelligence, except that character peaks a little later; between twenty and thirty, say. And after that, we’re just stuck with what we’ve got. We ‘re on our own. If so, that would explain a lot of lives, wouldn’t it ? And also – if this isn’t too grand a word- our tragedy.”

 The Sense of an Ending” is indeed a brilliant piece of writing.

1 comment:

  1. A very thoughtful review. Yes, how often we tell ourselves a story about what we experience and it becomes our truth.