Immortality and Memory- The Forgetting

This ice sculpture from the World Ice Carving Championship memorializes the meteor that landed in Russia in 2013. Photo by author.

This ice sculpture from the World Ice Carving Championship memorializes the meteor that landed in Russia in 2013. Photo by author.

Last week, I discussed photographic memory and whether it exists and it made me think about immortality and memory. I recently asked readers about immortality in general and one of my friends had this to say:

“Immortality means different things to different people. My favorite mental game along these lines is to try to imagine the ramifications if eternal life doesn’t include a better memory. I look back 20 years and think “oh yeah, I used to know a lot of statistics and calculus and French.” And the thing that bothers me isn’t that I no longer know those things, but that I rarely even remember that I knew them. In a hundred more years, would I have forgotten all my childhood friends? You bet. Ex girlfriends? probably. My brain in a hundred years would make for a thoroughly goofy personality. In a thousand years I wouldn’t be even identifiable as the same person. If I am not mentally the same person, is there any point to keeping the body alive forever?’

I too am fascinated by immortality and memory. As an author writing characters who are centuries old, who outlive relatives and earlier generations, I have to imagine what they are like and how they might cope with the memory overload and identity loss discussed above.

Would they become rootless and goofy if they don’t remember early memories, young adulthood, or education they received a long time ago?

Would they make special efforts to curate diaries and photographs to document things they don’t want to forget?

Would they envision long dead relatives and talk with them in their imaginations?

Like my friend, would they wonder about what they don’t remember they they don’t remember?

What if they find they actually remember too much, or only remember negative things about their lives?

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