Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Burden of Memory

When I was young, whenever I used to come across a news of someone committing suicide, I was perplexed as to why that person did not simply start a new life somewhere else. I considered such people, e.g. a farmer committing suicide due to an unpayable loan, a lover unable to unite with his beloved, as ones who were limiting their options. Life is too vast, I thought, and why end it if one is frustrated in one environment? Why not start over?

Only much later, I realized why not. It may seem trite, but it took me quite a while to experience it myself and thus realize the force of the factor involved.

The invisible threads and burdens of emotional memories bind us wherever we go. One may leave one's family and one's home, one may start a new life elsewhere, but what is to be done about the scars of heart and of emotional ties? Thus, a lover is unable to imagine a life without his beloved. In his valid reckoning, the failed love and the ache will haunt him no matter where he goes. In the same vein, a financially ruined man validly reckons that it will be well nigh impossible for him to rebuild his self-esteem in a new place, and for him to get over the feeling that he ran away like a coward. In the grip of such thoughts, many consider suicide and hence oblivion a better choice than to live with these burdens.

That also explains that when life becomes unbearable, it is the feelings inside which are unbearable, and which are sought to be drowned in addictions, drugs, alcohol, sleep, activity, etc. When there is no avenue to live a life free from these feelings, and when these feelings make one unable to live, one starts considering suicide as a possibility.

In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman examine the possibility of erasing one's hurtful memories so that one may be able to live again. The film does not explore this idea fully, and becomes a tad romantic towards the end, but the idea is immensely powerful. Most of us are so scarred and burdened with our emotional history that to be able to wipe it clean would literally be a new lease of life.

Psychiatry and therapy is primarily to weed out the most persistent of our emotional knots. Mood elevating drugs is an industry in itself. Distractions take us away from ourselves.

But what if one could indeed put the burden away, oneself? Not just dissociate from the painful self and its memories, but to wipe it off? To live a clean and pure life in which not only the emotional past is wiped clean, there is no emotional present to control and no emotional future to be afraid of (or to look forward to).

In essence ... the extirpation of one's heart and soul.

Scary? Inhuman? Too extreme?

That is the promise of Actual Freedom.

6 comments:

Modern Man said...

Would an actualist practice pacifism in the face of physical violence? What about illness - how does an actualist maintain his/her continual, in-the-moment, in-the-physical-world bliss while sick with the flu? Or do these occasions simply disrupt the happy materialism that an actualist otherwise enjoys?

These are some of the questions I had after reading the site you linked. Maybe I need to read more, but I couldn't find anything dealing with these unpleasant aspects of the material world.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Modern Man:

Would an actualist practice pacifism in the face of physical violence?

No. As far as I understand and live it, neither pacifism nor revenge would drive the actualist, but a situational intelligence on how to defend oneself and to deter the other.

What about illness - how does an actualist maintain his/her continual, in-the-moment, in-the-physical-world bliss while sick with the flu?

Bodily pains and inconveniences are unavoidable and the body has a threshold of how much pain it can bear after which it passes into unconsciousness. Till then, one can try to lessen the pain by medication. Bodily pain has nothing to do with the purity of experiencing possible when "I" am no longer ruling the show, though I admit that for someone who is not fully free, physiological discomfort can lead to restlessness and even a lack of felicity. The spiritual solution of dissociating from the body to not be bothered by the pain is a trick of perspective which is not needed if there is no fear of pain and death in the first place.

You might find the following instructive:

--
• [Respondent]: ‘Pain and anguish are part of life.
• [Richard]: ‘Hmm ... it is helpful to draw a distinction betwixt physical pain and emotional and mental pain. Physical pain is essential, else one could be sitting on a hot-plate and not know that one’s bum was on fire until one saw the smoke rising. Emotional and mental pain (which is what I indicated by using ‘animosity and anguish’) are totally unnecessary. (listb25c).
MARK: It is a very dangerous condition because they are oblivious of a bursting appendix, or being on fire, and similar potential dangers.

# Of course ... however your example has no application in my case as I am clearly and definitively stating that this flesh and blood body experiences physical pain.

MARK: There is a world of difference between appropriate emotive response, that lets the individual know that something is amiss, and taking offence at sleights to ones perceived identity.

# Yet there is no need for the ‘appropriate emotive response’ at all ... the physical pain elicits the requisite action of its own accord.

MARK: There is a world of difference between not being part of the usual insanities of the world and being devoid of emotionality.

# But the main thing I stress is being devoid of identity ... not just being ‘devoid of emotionality’ (the absence of emotions is a side-effect and not the main event).
--

Modern Man said...

Thanks for the explanations. I'm currently reading a book on Stoicism, and there seem to be some interesting parallels between Stoicism and Actualism (although, many differences, as well). I'll continue to read more of the site.

Pankaj said...

In the normal course, trying to rid oneself of ones own psychlogical burdens can be like trying to lift oneself in ones arms.

Anonymous said...

This post of your doesn't have the usual warning about Actual Freedom that you had posted on other posts and it doesn't have a smaller font as well. This post shows up on google search for actual freedom.

Anonymous said...

Touchy Harman, its easy to relate myself with the article. Those who have gone through this phase can only understand the burden of memories..!! it takes years to overcome of scares and back to normal life.

However, one should understand that if good time not lasted so neither worst time.