Lea’e Us Nought But Grief An’ Pain

I observed some time ago that our imagination fills in very large sections of our memories. We really only remember a few details and imagine the rest. For example, when remembering things about my time in Australia, I made a startling discovery: in my mind’s eye, the driver’s seat in the car was on the left side. When I took the time to think about it, I realized that I must have simply remembered a few specifics and when my imagination pieced it back together the cars went back to my memory’s default setting.

I need hardly mention that the past get’s colored with emotion. The principle cause of nostalgia is that there are chunks of time for which we ignore the bad things that happened (even without realizing it.) The same, of course, can be true of remembering hard or unpleasant times, but somehow that seems far less common.

The future is doubly unclear. We can only guess what the future holds, so we imagine based on our past experience. That is to say, we rely very heavily on a flawed memory of the past whenever we try to anticipate the future. So if a farmer whose memory was colored by recent hardship and whose best laid schemes have gone awry say of the future “tho’ I canna see, I guess an’ fear!” The cause of this guess is nothing other than a projection of memory:  “things have gone wrong in the past, they’ll go wrong again.”

To be sure, understanding the past is key to anticipating the future. As George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But the quality of the memory matters and has a profound influence on the outlook.

So we live on a breadthless line between a blurry past and dim future, trying to clarify the one to shed light on the other.

Beer of the Week: Tucher Pilsner – “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley,” but this beer doesn’t seem like the result of a well laid scheme. Overall, it seems rather half-hearted. Unlike our past or our future, the beer is extremely clear and light (although that’s not really a good thing in this case.) The head fades quickly and the aroma is nearly nonexistent. The overall flavor was no more impressive. Bland with an unpleasant aftertaste. Not a good choice.

Reading of the week: To a Mouse by Robert Burns – The poet says that the mouse is blessed in comparison to man, if only because the mouse lives entirely in the present. The mouse has no regrets and no dread of the future. At least it sounds that way, I don’t speak Scots. (Oh, and in case you can’t figure out either, I’ve attached a video to help with pronunciation.)

Question of the week: If plans go wrong, were they really “the best laid schemes”? Is there any contingency that absolutely, positively could not have been accounted for with just a bit more attention to detail and a wider imagination?

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