Saturday, December 12, 2015

Robert Grudin: Time and the Art of Living


"One need only to try to remember the dishes one ate for dinner on each night of the week past to realize that the things we desire as future and enjoy as present are not necessarily the things we value for all time.  In this sense memory sits like an incorruptible judge, oblivious to the minor pains and pleasures of the past even as we unreasonably overvalue identical pains and pleasures in the present and future."

Remember dinners for the past week?  I have problems remembering one dinner from the past week, or even a few days ago.  It is sobering, though, when I think of the times I have gone out, looking forward to a special meal at a restaurant, and now look back and try to remember when I went to that restaurant and what I had there.

Grudin also calls memory "an incorruptible judge" and seems to imply that it judges what's really important and what isn't.  That would mean that I remember only those things that are important and forget only those that aren't.  Yet when I do remember something that I haven't thought of in years, I am frequently perplexed as to why that has remained in my memory as it seems so inconsequential, so unimportant.  

I think it was Pascal who said "  "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."   Well, maybe memory has its reasons also. 

The things you remember--are they always the important things?


  1. My memories are not always of important events. But what is actually important. I can remember to this day the first time I had heard a song on the radio and the DJ came on and said it was a classic from twenty years ago. I was in the car with my then boyfriend and we looked at each other and our eyes got big. Twenty years! Now I regularly listen to music from fifty years ago and more, lol.

    Then for me, memories feed off each other. That will remind me of other events with the same people or in the same location - small things, less earth-shattering than the realization that time is passing and I'm aging.

  2. madamevauquer,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Yes, it's startling to hear on the radio a song referred to as a "Golden Oldie" which came out many years after I could vote.

    I also find that memories appear to be chained--one pops up which brings up others.

  3. Fred, I think psychiatrists would argue that memory can be a blessing or a curse. The most healthy among us have filtered memories that protect us from pain and suffering; the least healthy among us are afflicted by (among other things) unpleasant memories (conscious or unconscious) that will not let us get on with our lives. So, even though I complain about having a lousy memory, I guess it might be considered the sign of a healthy mind. I certainly have plenty in my life that I do not want to remember. And if I cannot remember some of the more pleasant things, I'm willing to let those go along with the unpleasant things.

  4. R.T.,

    I remember reading a study conducted by psychologists during the 30s, I think, of soldiers who had won medals in WWI. Two groups were studied: one group consisted of those who had spent considerable time or were presently in VA hospitals for psychological problems and those who seemed to have adjusted well to civilian life afterwards. Memory seemed to be a significant factor. Those with psychological problems remembered everything about the event for which they were awarded their medal while those who seemed to have adapted quite well were vague about the entire event.

    One of my favorite quotations is attributed to Ingrid Bergman: "Happiness is good health and a poor memory."

  5. Made me stop and think. I wonder if my memory constantly files and refiles, shuffling things around. Maybe. And maybe the important stuff sometimes get confused with the unimportant. Who's to tell? Who's to know. Only me.

    I'm off to visit with family for the holidays, Fred. Be back in a few weeks. So just dropping in to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. God bless.

  6. Yvette,

    Thanks for stopping by. Have a great visit with the family. See you next year.