11 February 2012

On Greenberg and the Catharsis of Human Memory


The last time I saw Noah Baumbach's film Greenberg, was when it was in theatres back in 2010. Watching it again tonight was weird because I remembered the film much differently. Having seen it only once doesn't help but I could've sworn that certain parts of the story have changed since the last viewing; or certain themes have altered in relevance. Maybe I watched a director's cut unknowingly or maybe its something else entirely.

Recently, I came across a blog about 9/11 and human memory. The author stated that neuroscience has concluded through studies, that human memory is not kept in one permanent state that is conjured up continually in the same form it was originally stored. Meaning when we think of a memory it all depends on our current mood and state of mind, the same memory today could have made you feel an entirely different way two months ago, and will most likely be an altogether different experience two months from now, depending on what happens in your life between then and now. But thats not all, not only does your memory change in context but also in content. The things that shape your life and its experiences also shape your memories, information and details shift depending on emotions and these are then stored as your memories which will later evolve even more when recollected at a future time.

What I remembered from Greenberg was perhaps relevant to what was happening to me in 2009. I wrapped the memory of that film in old newspaper which no doubt left the scent of what were the current events of that time. Thats why certain elements of the plot and theme aren't as prevalent to impress on my memory as they were when I first viewed the film. Its a very well written story though, both today and yesterday. The main part that sticks to me now is Ivan's line about how difficult it is to finally accept the life you never planned on living. That echoed for a few minutes after the scene. Regret is a very fucked up emotion, its the one I hate the most. But regarding how we store memories, its no doubt that with age, you start to regret things you never regretted before because the emotions attached to these memories have changed. On the positive side of this logic however, it should hold true that we, with age, also accept things we never thought we'd accept before because of where we currently are mentally. But how do we feel content without feeling as if we're compromising? How do we feel as if we're not simply settling for less?

I don't know. I just have the question, nothing of an answer seems to participate. I do know that at some point what a person wants, what a person strives for and attempts to create for their self, this becomes less important and the effort seems like a harrowing chore rather than a natural part of your day when its based on desperate nostalgia. Its as if the body recognizes a visitor that has overstayed their welcome and slowly stops accommodating this imposing guest.

Like Ivan, this is not the life I thought I'd be living but from where I stand, living the life I imagined doesn't seem as important as the one I want to maintain and make the most of in the present. Its sorta like saying:

Okay I wanted to live this way but didn't and thats okay because it doesn't matter now; but I am disappointed that at one point it did matter and I didn't respect that enough to make it happen--so now let me make sure I respect how I want to live and make it happen.

And that, I believe is the best any of us can do, until our memory tells us otherwise.

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