Again, a post of Keith‘s got me thinking. As I mention in a comment on his post, maybe we need to feel free to forget.
As he discusses in a section of his excellent post on materialism, travel has a collecting side to it. We buy trinkets, take pictures, tell stories, write blogs and collect memories. I see this as almost a sense of desperation in trying to keep the reality of the travel experience alive. If we can remember it, then it really happened and it wasn’t a waste. If we can prove to others or create a document, then our decisions and lives are somehow more justified. This idea got me thinking, do we try to remember too much? Is there a freedom in forgetting as well?
“If a traveler goes somewhere and no one is there to document it, did he really go there?”
An odd manipulation of the age old philosophical question of falling trees. In the modern age of travel and media, do we need to justify what we have been doing with our time? There appears to be a drive to be recognized for our travel. Posting pictures is just one aspect. I love the attention when I tell stories of the travels that I have done and especially when I talk about coming to Germany on a boat. The unusualness of it is attracting to others and my ego glows at that attention. When I notice this effect in myself, the first thought goes to “why am I trying to travel for an audience?” Do I need a house full of trinkets with well known destinations on them to labeled a traveler? Do I need validation from someone else telling me how cool my travels were before I realize it myself?
The cliche here is that of course not, you should be able to justify your own decisions and life within yourself, and that no one else should be able to tell you otherwise. Haha, if it were so simple. I tend to agree with the cliche line, but easy is it not. Maybe the stories and trinkets are more there for me than for others. I’m ok with this to an extent, if I learned a lesson on a trip, I want to be able to remember it if I forget that lesson. So yes, even if I don’t have pictures and I was someplace totally by myself, I did go there and it did affect me.
Clinging to the Past
Everyone makes decisions, this is the basic nature of humanity. We are decision machines. Most decisions are made out of habit, which is the accumulated experience of the decisions past. When we continue to act out of habit even when we would rather not, then unsettled feelings come in. Sometime decisions are tiny pitched battles between the habit and the desire. Striking out in a new direction and leaving the well trodden path can bring some great rewards. Look at your own goals (you do know what you want right?) and move toward them.
I studied in Vienna many years ago. It was a great time in my life, even though I made some mistakes and learned some lessons on that trip. When I was back in Vienna this past spring, I spent nearly a full afternoon searching for the place where I stayed. I essentially went looking for the memories of the good times. I never did find the place, and ended up feeling a bit disappointed about that. I like going back to places I have been, especially if there are friends there. But that afternoon in Vienna reminded me to keep memories in the past and try to build new good experiences based on their lessons, not necessarily resurrect them.
Forget the lessons you vaguely remember, especially if you can’t explain why they are important. My therapist tells me if you can’t remember who said something or point at an incident that taught you something, then it is likely not even a decision you made; but something coming from outside. Take a look at those feelings and decide based on your own moral compass and feelings.
I get stuck sometimes. Especially with my bigger fears, the past affects me greatly. I am afraid to fly, because I have been for a long time based on a single incident long ago. Even in decisions where to travel, I will usually pick things that I am familiar with. These are definitely things that I made decisions based on, not society rules or external constraints. But you know what, as I grow and change I want certain things out of my personal story too. I want to forget that I am afraid of certain things. I want to move on past these fears into the joys that come beyond them.
Leave Memories in the Past
The present is the most important part of life. Memories help shape the decisions we make, but should not dictate them totally. Some of the lessons I have learned, I would rather not have learned and attempt to learn other lessons to overwrite them. The control we have over our own story should means we do not need to justify our own decisions to other people. I’ll pull out a line that came into my head one afternoon and leave it at that.
“Often when we cling so hard to something to keep from falling, that becomes the anchor that later prevents us from flying.”
Do you feel free to forget things? Are memories a burden or a support network (or both)? Feel free to comment on my esoteric rambling.
- Keith’s Post on Travel and Materialism