Inquiry: Individual and Collective Memory – a philosophical approach

brown and white abstract painting Photo by Polina Kovaleva on

by LJ Frank

To be human requires the ability to remember with empathy – it’s the mental tissues (pages) and cells in our brain that allows us to observe, record and catalogue while offering context to the reality and perceptions of one’s existence – a knowledge and experience of our yesterdays. Without that memory we lack knowledge about our self and relationship to others and access to a higher conscious. And without a memory life can be more brutish than it is with one. Memory is the basis of our humanity and allows a provocative and substantial context for love and compassion.

To be beneficial memory also requires us to be honest with those events and people we experience everyday. To be dishonest with our memory is to distort our humanity and to corrupt our world with a form of dementia and artificially induced Alzheimer’s. To lose one’s memory we become a danger to our self in that we are at a loss. The distortion and loss of a collective memory through misinformation or disinformation leads us toward an unforgiving path.

Even the mentally disabled child that recognizes her mother’s voice is the effect of a tissue or page of memory, no matter how brief the amount of data stored. That memory is the basis of the child’s humanity and in effect of all humanity. Our memory is a metaphysical link to what we call a state of higher consciousness. And that higher consciousness arrives in many forms and remains within us as long as our memory holds.

Our memories are built on interpreting the world around us for greater understanding. The more honest we are with our own memories the greater value in our collective memory. That collective memory aids us in realizing our connection with the universe beyond the physical stuff and power we accumulate. And, the competition for the physical is an empty promise. Physical wealth and power is never enough and disturbs the memory of compassion to others. To create a world of “haves” and “have nots” is to distort history and never ends in good will to our neighbors while our collective memory is lost in a wilderness of self-deception.

The struggle to exist in a landscape of unfairness is alleviated by our memory. It’s what helps us walk through the darkest shadows in life. Our physical eyes are lens while the brain photographs what is being viewed and provides vision while our memory offers us insight into who and what we are and see.

The ticking second-hand on a watch is a misleading indicator of the enigmatic caduceus* of time and memory. In the midst of life’s timeless absurdities, a memory with empathy causes us to be human and allows us to smile even when in pain. Even the saddest of memories is the paradox of fondness for the compassion we are capable of as a human species. With memory exists a choice.

*a symbolic staff of a messenger