I might have mentioned this before, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is my favorite movie. In case you haven’t seen it, the movie centers on a couple, Clementine and Joel (played Kate Winslet & Jim Carrey) whose romantic relationship has gone sour. Clementine impulsively decides to erase Joel from her memory, and Joel hastily decides to do the same. Ignorance is bliss, right? Well, actually, somewhere along the way, Joel comes to appreciate all of the moments that he’s shared with Clementine and struggles against the complete erasure of the woman he loves.
I recently read an incredible article that indicates that there is scientific progress being made that could lead to the ability for people to erase “bad” memories. The implications of this could be huge for those with PTSD, survivors of horrific crimes, and war veterans especially. But…should we erase memories of things that have shaped us?
As someone who can identify more with Clementine & Joel than those individuals facing depression and PTSD, I believe that the lessons I’ve learned from break-ups, my own fuck-ups, and things I’d be happier to forget I don’t actually want to forget. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Any and every event—no matter how seemingly insignificant—has the potential to shape who we are. What happens if we take the ability to recall those moments? Maybe that’s what some people need to feel okay again…
I’m scared that I would become a shell of myself if I weren’t able to remember the struggles and the heartbreaks that have helped to form my personality and my outlook on life. Those examples of failure have taught me to appreciate success, to learn from my mistakes. If we don’t remember the bad shit, do we become doomed to repeat it over and over again?
Personally, I’m not down with that. Our memories are interconnected. If I erase someone or a bad day from my memory, what happens to everything that I associate with that person or that day? I get the idea of wanting to forget pain and feelings that are getting you nowhere in life, but Joel and Clementine found each other again. I’m not a religious person and I’m not sure about the whole fate-thing, but I feel like there are lessons that we have to learn and people we’re supposed to meet along the way. Pain and loss are inevitable. Erasing memories seems like a step backward, not a step forward.
But I feel like if this is something that becomes a legitimate possibility, it comes down to choice. I respect your autonomy to decide whether or not you want to keep your memories. I suppose we’re all looking for happiness and peace of mind and it’s up to us to decide whether that comes from blissful ignorance or wisdom gained through experience. Just some food for thought.
This post brought to you by Dawn, who is just a fucked-up girl looking for her own piece of mind; don’t assign her yours. (That is potentially my favorite part of the movie.)