Imagine if we could relive a favorite memory with absolutely perfect recall. Imagine if we could find lost things by venturing back into our memories to see exactly where we left them. Imagine if we could become so lost in our memories that we stop living our lives completely. These are a few of the themes explored in the film Reminiscence starring Hugh Jackman written and directed by Lisa Joy.
The funny thing is I have seen these themes before and as soon as I saw the tank Hugh Jackman was putting his clients in I had seen that before as well. Earlier this year I read the novel Recursion by Blake Crouch and I also recently read the book Thinking, Fast and Slow that introduced me to the experiencing self and the remembering self. Both the film Reminiscence and the book Recursion make the point that we are our remembering selves. The experiencing self barely exists at all and only in flashes.
Time works in funny ways. Because light takes time to travel to our eyes and our eyes take time to relay that information to our brain everything we see exists in the past. It might be a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a second in the past but it is still in the past. That means all we have and all we are are our memories.
The novel Recursion took things a step further with the characters being able to time travel through their memories where the characters in the film Reminiscence can only experience the memories. It makes the point that memory is a form of time travel. We can go back and experience that perfect moment with an old lover or spend time with our children when they were still babies or have a game of fetch with an old dog, but we can’t change anything. Memories are what they were.
In order to change memories we need dreams. Our mind is a powerful machine that we barely understand. Every night we can pick a memory and change it and shape it how we want. We can take a fork in our road and head down the other path. What if I had become a Psych major instead of an English major or what if I had discovered Art History sooner. In dreams I can imagine the present with these subtle changes.
Even then I can never make it reality. Living in memories, even if they are dreams, is always living in the past, but the past is all we have. The future is not shaped and the present is an illusion or too fleeting to count. We are our past and our future is determined by the path we are already on. Sure, we can stray, but how far?