Sunday, September 02, 2007

Memories & objective reality

There are many adjectives that can be used to describe different memories -happy, haunting, scary, embarassing, distinct, elusive, sad and sometimes even perplexing. But perhaps one adjective that can be used more universally with memories is 'interesting'. No matter which end of what spectrum does a memory fall, it is seldom dull and uninteresting. That could possibly explain the prominent featuring of memories in many works of fiction - written or celluloid.

What makes memories so interesting? While we are still in the present, life hardly seems that interesting. Just by moving on in time does the past become more colorful? Perhaps the mind uses the filters - of preserving only the vivid moments - or does it add the vividness to the routine dullness? That is something we will not know - the mysteries of the mind. What we remember as memories - are they real? Or a snapshot modiefied in the photoshop of our minds?

And why just memories, even the reality that we see is perhaps modified by the medium of our minds through which we see it. That's why the account of two people seeing the same thing is so different. Kurosawa's Rashomon focuses upon the impossibility of determining the objective truth, and the complete reliance on individual accounts to arrive at reality. Similarly, we are forced to completely rely on the account that our mind gives us to make an image of reality. 'Somethings have to be believed to be seen', and people often see what they believe. After watching a sacry movie, often the shadow of the trees falling on the window takes gruesome shapes.

A brilliant depiction of the enigma called memory is done by Michelangelo Antonioni in his movie Blow-up where a photographer comes to believe that he has captured a murder on his camera. In this convinced state, he even sees a body lying at the spot. But when he returns in the morning, there is no body. And without a proof, he cannot claim to the truth of the murder. He is not even sure if he saw the body or it was an image from his mind. The last scene with the mimic tennis game brings home this point with remarkable clarity and finesse.

I wonder if there truly is an objective reality? What if, like Matrix our minds are projecting a world reality and it is largely uniform accross a number of people only because it is programmed to be so. Sometimes a bit of a fault in the program makes people see an alternative reality and we call them mad, insane or 'soft in the head' depending on the degree of deviation. Does what is seen by a majority of people become objective reality? Because 2 out of 3 witnesses said they saw a similiar picture?

5 comments:

kinger said...

Life can be captured in a few frames typical or atypical of the person but most of what we capture is in the conscious memory. Similarly (and you can point out the conspicous flawed logic) the present life is a dimension of the unconscious since we have no control over time and how fast a minute passes by. But, ironically, the past is completely in our control and we consciously dig it out from the memory of our mind. In this conscious playback of memory is when we can attach emotions which are better suited to the situation than those we actually experienced thereby making the memory interesting and also different from "objective reality". Which is why our present boring life will seem more interesting when seen on celluloid.
Just a musing on similar lines to your post.

Madhuri said...

Interesting thought Rachit - though I still believe we do not have as much control on the way our mind plays and replays memories as we like to think. And if we cannot capture present, by extension, past should become even hazier to grasp.
And attaching emotions that we did not experience - that is what I think is the photoshop job. No doubt it makes the picture looks pretty, but sometimes when you want reality - where do you look?

KUBLA KHAN said...

Hi...just reading various things, stumbled here.
i donot agree with this sci-fi approach you have taken re memory and programming etc
long term memories are subject to decay, known psychological fact. within long term memories, we have flash bulb memories, like first love, first passing, failing etc
short term memories die instantly.
however, memories cannot be measured in the mind, maybe brain. memories are an ecclectic mix of fuming desire and seething melancholy, if melancholy can seethe.
memories are the groundworks of our like, any scientific approach, matrix like is an affront to our dark sides, our psychologically unapproachable side, our poetic instincts, our melancholia, our dreams.
I hope you dont mind these few words.

Madhuri said...

@Kubla Khan - I appreciate your comments. I don't believe in the idea of Matrix, but that is one of the many possibilities in the keys to unearthing the mysteries of the mind or what you call brain (I am not sure I understand the difference between the two).

shiva said...

"What if, like Matrix our minds are projecting a world reality and it is largely uniform accross a number of people only because it is programmed to be so."

I've wondered about it at times..you have captured it well...no two people see the same thing when they see(cliched) it and neither do they feel the same..