Other People’s Memories

One of the joys of spending time with others is that one gets to enjoy the retelling of tales from other people. This is especially true if one is hanging around members of other families or people who have known each other long enough or well enough to have a treasure trove of inside jokes and stories about each other to share. In hearing the memories of other people, one can draw insight on what others remember, how others see the world, and what is important to them (or what they might think is worth telling). Being someone who tells enough tales for myself and about myself, I tend to find it interesting to hear what others have to say. One cannot talk all of the time, after all, and it is certainly rude to be domineering of conversations, especially when other people have such enjoyable experiences to share.

Some of the most poignant memories involved people who went to school with each other in a class of only 25 students or so but who could not remember their classmates. How sad is it to ride a bus with someone and go to class with someone for thirteen years and be totally unremembered. Such a thing would make me feel deeply sad; I would want to make a big enough (and hopefully good enough) impression not to be forgotten no matter how far away I may be. I understand that not everyone may be equally memorable, but I would think that with that much time spent in close proximity that there would be some memorable quirk, such as an extreme sensitivity to red dye #40, or a love of giving random drive-by hugs to others, would tend to make someone stick in the memory. I suppose my love of stories, both my own and the stories of others, helps me to remember others.

I suppose that is the real joy of memories. We can remember facts and isolated data, but it is best for memory as well as understanding if those facts are connected into stories and narratives. There can be a danger in narratives, in that we can point the data and facts in the wrong direction, but the correction to bad narratives is good narratives, and not no narratives. Still, as someone who loves stories, I have no shortages of narratives about myself and others to ponder and share. Hearing about where others come from and where they are going helps us to better relate to others and better able to show them compassion and understanding. This is not always an easy thing to do, but if we have a curiosity in other people and in their lives, it is easy to listen to them talk, and throw in a witty comment or two at fitting places, or at least ones that seem fitting at the time.

And there are some benefits in listening to the memories of others. When we talk about ourselves, we generally increase the store of knowledge of others (and this is not always a good thing) but not of ourselves. It is only through being open to input from others, through written or oral communication, or from observation of the behavior of others, that we gain in wisdom and understanding and knowledge ourselves. Yet we also have compulsions to share ourselves with others, which in well-functioning relationships tends to lead to a mutual sharing of stories and perspectives, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and regard that lead to mutual concern and appreciation. Even if this level of reciprocity may sometimes be elusive, it is a worthy goal to aim at, as sharing the stories of others helps us to feel more connected, in a world where intimacy is immensely elusive at times.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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