Can We Really Trust Our Memories to Revivify the Past?

Some memories are unforgettable. A memory of graduation after years of toil on a degree. A memory of the day you married the love of your life. A memory of your child’s first excited squeal upon discovering a butterfly rising from a bed of roses. Or a memory of the perfect day you backpacked in Karakalpakstan or took the Chao Phraya River Cruise in Bangkok.

Downtown Nukus, touring the Republic of Karakalpakstan

What happened years ago seems like it only happened yesterday.

“We let love get lost in anger chasing yesterday” – Noel Gallagher.

Other beautiful memories don’t hold up too well. All we remember are the feelings they evoked at the time. The details may escape us. Perhaps it was a Thanksgiving dinner where we know we had a wonderful time, but don’t remember who was at the table. Perhaps it was our last prom, but we don’t remember the name of our date. Perhaps you dated a local lady in Poland. These memories tend to blur over time, getting fainter over the years, fading away like the fading ink in a handwritten letter or the yellowing images of a photograph of your mother holding you up in rhapsody after you took your first step.

Still, we don’t always have to keep everything fresh in mind. We have to allow time to blur the edges of our mental snapshots. The remembrance of things past can be recaptured and favorite moments relived through some practical measures like photography, videography, souvenir collecting, and journaling.

Preserving Memories Through Photography

Anyone can take a picture, but not everyone can be a photographer. The difference is one of temperament and perspective rather than of knowledge or experience. A photographer is someone who loves every aspect of photography, from understanding ISO Camera settings to waiting until the perfect time of the day to photograph a crater lake just before sunset.

If you want to preserve the past, you have to be able to notice what is beautiful and sublime in it. Becoming a photograph will give you a keen eye, a sharp mind, and fast reflexes to capture fleeting experiences that deserve to be immortalized.

Backpacking in Turkmenistan

Invoking the past Through Videography

Good video helps create an emotional connection. It’s inspiring content that you can view in the future.

If, for instance, you win a medal after your first marathon, you want to recall more than the medal ceremony from the medal or a photograph of the event. You also want to see the tears streaming down your face because you did what you had considered impossible.

Good videography should make you feel something, perhaps almost as vividly as you felt it at the time. If a video takes you back in time, if it stirs a sense of nostalgia, then videography has successfully worked its magic.

Recalling Fun Times and Lovely Places Through Souvenirs

Souvenirs are a simple way to bring places we’ve visited home with us, welcoming them into our space.

While other people might see the pretty shell on your mantelpiece as a pretty pink ornament, you see the wonderful day you walked on a beach in China, your senses alive with the roar of the tide, the salty smell smarting your nostrils, and the warmth of the sun-kissed sand between your toes.

jonny blair peking duck

Eating in China

 Understanding the Seasons of Our Lives Through Journaling

While images and things can certainly help us remember the past, sometimes we want to remember things that aren’t tangible, things of the mind and heart.

The best way to do this is through journaling.

Writing about something wonderful after it happens, when it’s still fresh in your mind, helps you in two ways:

It helps you deepen your appreciation for what just happened.

And looking at your journal entry many years later, you’ll see it in a new light, adding the weight of time to your recollection.

Journaling isn’t so much about recalling what happened in the world, but about what happened inside you, within the windmills of your mind.

An Ode to Mnemosyne 

Memories make us who we are. Yet life is long and experiences tend to become hazy in hindsight. We can’t always preserve all the things we once loved or enjoyed or treasured.  But through artful means like photography, videography, souvenir collecting, and journaling we can keep more of those bright days that made us feel incredibly alive, that filled us with love and laughter and happiness. Sweet memories help us anchor a deep sense of peace with the world.

4 thoughts on “Can We Really Trust Our Memories to Revivify the Past?

  • Thanks Jonny for this meaningful post. You certainly have a (fine) way with words. I had to look up “Mnemosyne” though! Pics are always good. Cheers.

  • I think for lovers or even partners traveling is a great way to store memories that can be recalled and is also a special way to bond.

  • Hi Christine, Thanks for the comment as ever and sorry for the delay – I have been in depression a lot of the last 4 years and not been checking messages or emails. It seems like a tough one to pronounce. Stay safe. Jonny

  • Hi Jerry. Thanks for the comment. Apologies for the delay. I have been going through depression and only checking through my old comments and messages now. It was a fun trip most of the time. Stay safe. Jonny

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