I have recently returned from China, where like everyone else, I took numerous photographs. yet how often will I look at them? Rarely. Yet my memory of that time there is vivid – because in reality we store our experiences in the stories of the events there – be it the friendly guide on the Great Wall or the deceptive students at the tea party! Stories are a much more powerful way of recalling our lives than photos do – indeed all the photos do is stimulate the recall of the story. Neuro-science has shown that we store 70% of our memories in narrative.
Our life is not measured by the length we live but by the experiences we had in that period. It’s become a bit of game – the person who collects the most experiences wins! We are becoming ‘memory junkies’ and seem to believe the only way to have a meaningful life is doing the Inca trail, followed by Kilimanjaro followed by a Bungee jump in New Zealand, followed by….. when time spent with your Grandmother over a cup of tea can be just as powerful a memory.
So if a ‘good life’ is one of many experiences, maybe the best way is to hunt out the stories within our current lives and record them down? A friend of mine believed every conversation contained an untold truth waiting to be told. She therefore stayed in the conversation longer than many and found incredible riches through her perseverance.
Also I am sure different people ‘store’ different kinds of stories – maybe the pessimist/persecuted collects stories about hardship, failure and loss whilst an optimist may focus less on being stuck overnight in Capri and more about the funny events that happened because of it. So maybe we should start to collect more of the good stories in our library and put to the back shelves of our mind those negative ones? Furthermore, the more powerfully we store these stories, the more vividly we can recall them, and the brighter that experience will become?
A final thought: Are we living in the memory of now ? Are we so locked behind the camera lens in trying to capture ‘the memory’ that we are losing sight of where the real memory lies? Is the event actually best lived as a memory than in the present? I think not. The answer must lie in being truly present in the moment – that is where the real story is created….