Aug 27

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Is that real, or did I make it up?

Total Recall is one of those 1990s films that I never actually watched. The trailer of this year’s remake promises a dystopian tale of the future, where the planet has been ravaged by chemical warfare, and it’s possible to implant artificial memories in people’s brains.

I’m enjoying the prospect of Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale looking beautiful, kicking ass, and simultaneously considering deep philosophical questions about identity and existence. It prompted me to consider….

What if I found out all my memories weren’t real? What if I found out they’d been totally made up and implanted in my brain?

I imagine it would mean:

  • All my mistakes and regrets are removed in one swish.
  • The justification for all my ‘oughts’, ‘musts’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘have-tos’ evaporates.
  • The embarrassment of failing to hit those bold targets disintegrates.
  • All those obligations I’ve weighed upon myself are lifted.
  • The need for perseverance, determination, commitment and other varieties of pain is gone.

It would be so liberating to focus on the here and now. To do what feels right, what I’m drawn to. This is what freedom would feel like. What a world that would be!

But of course all our memories ARE made up. Not by some complicated evil global conspiracy, but by our hard-working brains, struggling to make sense of things.

This is not to say we exist in a vacuum, as brains in vats, fully engrossed in constructing an imaginary reality around ourselves. There is a real reality out there, but the way we experience it is ENTIRELY made up.

Which explains why sometimes we feel on top of the world, as if anything’s possible, and we’re brimming with love, enthusiasm and clarity. And other times everything seems overwhelming, frustrating, and downright impossible (while the external circumstances have remained unchanged by the way).

We’re making it all up. The frustration will pass. And it’ll pass more quickly when we notice we can stop wrestling with it. Without us having to do anything at all, another experience of reality enters our brains.

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