The autumn of decaying memories

“You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed them to the fire, they’re all just paper. The fire isn’t thinking ‘Oh, this is Kant,’ or ‘Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,’ while it burns. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there’s no distinction–they’re all just fuel.”

― Haruki Murakami

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Do you remember the last time you revisited your old school? You could replay every second you’ve spent walking across those dingy corridors in your head, the paint on the walls had worn off but to you it smelled right like it did when you saw it the first time post renovation. Those chairs that you could never comfortably place your butt on felt like the sweetest embrace. The uniform that you could set fire to felt like the softest fabric, you could nearly dissolve in it. And the teachers who’d always pick on you gave you the tightest hug and the most heartfelt blessings. That’s the magic of memories. You can relive them and recreate them, and they will never ever feel any different. They’ll bring you the same solace irrespective of how much you’ve changed over the years. They are versions of you that you’ve lost over the years, a reunion of all the people you thought you couldn’t live without but had to let go. Hence memories are so refreshing. They could be poison or therapy, but mostly a bundle of feelings you left behind. And it doesn’t take much to trigger an explosion of memories in your head. It could be someone’s fragrance, or the taste of your favourite home cooked meal, or the sight of your favourite childhood toy and bam! You’re faltering over the present. It’s like you’re losing momentum and the gravity can’t hold your feet tight anymore; that’s how magnetic memories are. They pull you back to the times of pleasure and pain, and give you flashbacks of the person you used to be, and the life you’ve led. They’re destructive yet gratifying making them all the more appealing. Like an old haunted house that you’ve always wanted to visit, despite of how everyone suggests you not to go there, you just can’t help but drag your feet right to its door. But mostly they’re very tricky. They keep you chained to the past in many ways. As much as you’d like to free yourself of it, they’ll always be a big hindrance in the middle of that.

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Good and bad memories can both bring you pain. The bad ones for very obvious reasons, but the good ones because they remind you of the extensive loss that you’ve suffered over the years. Similarly they could both bring you joy too. The good ones because they’re a reminder of all incredible days you’ve spent, and the bad ones because you know you’ve learnt from them and you’ve grown into a finer person over the years. We all have secrets, we’ve all done things we’re not very proud of, and memory is our place of burial of all these secrets and all these regrets. Our very own personal space, chamber of secrets or whatever you may call it. As much as they make you happy, memories make you clingy, unable to let go. And sometimes they change you, beyond the point of recognition. They’re so effective and so clear, that they bring out your dark side. The most fascinating part about memories is that they’re very uniform yet very versatile in nature. Their perception and their effect is a play of the human mind. The same five people looking at the same picture will all experience different feelings during those 4 seconds of glancing at that picture. There is uniformity and stability in the picture, but there’s variety in the emotions it generates. It’s like a naked wire left untouched, only waiting to create some buzz.

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Yet leaving it all aside, memories are beautiful, to the point of being poetic. It could be the memory of your first kiss, the first time you drove a car, the first time you cooked, your first salary, your first heartbreak, anything. There’s no end to this list. You may have been the background score of someone else’s song but memory is a timeline of all the lives you’ve touched, those you’ve influenced, and those you’ve completely transformed. But when they take you back, you need to shake your head and sometimes pull yourself right out of their trap. Because they make you want more, and you can never ever alter your past, you’ve only got your future in the palms of your trembling hands. You must not let that slip. So keep the memories, live them, relive them, but never let them take over. You have taken that road, and those streets may call you back, but you only fall once you walk backwards. So take one step at a time but take it forward, because the past has shadows but the future has the sun.

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