there is no memory


IMG_0073POSTCARD #118: Chiang Mai/Bangkok flight: Early morning and we have a flight to catch. Some urgency in getting M organized, her bag with tinkling-bell/woolly-teddy-bear appendages and putting on these brightly coloured shoes. Then down in the elevator, along the corridor and all the doors that open different ways… obstacle course. Is it a pull or a push? M says it’s a plush. I simply assume they should all be the same but Western standards don’t apply here (not necessarily a bad thing). There’s a tug, an unyielding shove but we get most of them right, out in the street and the taxi is waiting.

No time, bags flung in and we’re careering through the quiet streets at a surprising speed. Fortunately no rush-hour traffic, it’s a public holiday, Thai New Year (Songkran) and we’re at the airport; suddenly there… it feels like some kind of space/time anomaly has taken place. X-ray machines, no queue at check in, boarding pass issued, more X-ray machines and we’re in Departures with more than an hour to spare.

There’s an old 80s song: ‘…and you may ask yourself, well… how did I get here?’ (Talking Heads). I’m as bewildered as anyone would be at this time in the morning, whatever it is that brought me here. In a larger sense, karma, causality – even though time cannot be excluded, in a manner of speaking. The flight is called, and the announcement that elderly passengers and families with small children are invited to board first. M says: Toong Ting? We can go now, it’s our little joke, because M and I qualify on both counts… so hand in hand we line up behind the wheelchairs. It’s as if I’m being led by M, not the other way round, and in a moment we’re walking down the ramp, on to an empty plane. Enough time to get the bags stowed away and into our seats before the great sea of passengers pours in.

Flight leaves on time, uneventful journey, I ask M if she’s okay, it must be really boring for kids, not being able to see above the high passenger seats. I look down at her small face, and don’t see M, I see her grandmother who died three years ago. M says she’s okay and I get up from the seat; go along the aisle to the tiny toilet at the very end of the plane, a kind of perspective shaped endspace inside the tailpiece of the fuselage. Curious experience, everything is tailored to fit; we live in a bespoke world. Just enough room to turn around see myself in the mirror, believing in this mirror reflection of myself that takes the place of that which is aware. Who am I? No answer required, no seeking, no wanting or needing. Just being with the question.

Back to the seats and M is still there of course. In no time at all we’re landed, bags picked up from the belt, on to the trolley out of the airport, into the car and the family take over from there. I can relax when we get to the house, M is busy changing clothes and getting ready to join the thousands of people out in the streets for the water throwing games. Just before she leaves, M comes to my room with a small bottle of auspicious scented fluid mixed with water and pours a little on my arm and rubs it in, Happy Songkran Toong Ting, runs out the door.

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‘There is no memory. There is only the act of remembering.’[Nyanaponika Thera]

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Photo above shows the Songkran water party at Silom (see this link).  M is standing on the left
The Nyanaponika Thera quote is sourced in Cabrogal’s post: Meeting the Mahathera
~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~

34 thoughts on “there is no memory

  1. He’s back! Beautiful writing as always, Tiramit. I loved the sense you created here, which for me felt as though the events in front of you were always more than could be grasped. They escaped the ability of the mind to comprehend– doors that defied deciphering, a rush for the airport, a cab ride that whizzes past, the unexpected vision of M’s grandmother, the squished airborne commode– and the water gently applied to your arm. I cannot read this without sensing the greater field of grace in which it all occurs… Your writing makes this vastness plain to see…

    Peace
    Michael

    • Thanks Michael, suddenly present! Yes I was kinda under the weather for a bit. But no opportunity for lingering over it when there’s M and her vitality and The Whole Thing is a game. All this traveling from A to B and the point of origin is so distant it’s not relevant anymore, this ‘greater field of grace in which it all occurs’ could be a glimpse into the world as M sees it, or more than words can say. Language doesn’t reach that far…

  2. An appropriate implied soundtrack considering the memory quote. It’s all Once in a Lifetime really. Same as it ever was.

    Now I’m a greybeard too I wonder if I was to return to Thailand during Songkran I’d just get a few drops of scented water on my arm as well, instead of the thorough drenching I always got in the 80s and 90s.

    • Thanks and good to hear from you again. Same as it ever was… yes, there’s physical aging and you start to notice people refer to you as Loong (uncle), and you get left out of things, even though it would be nice to be engaged with the activity. There’s no finality, any particular point you focus on is ‘Once in a Lifetime’

    • Yes, that’s it, a huge public event. The difference is it’s the peak of the hot season and splashing each other with buckets of water, hose pipes and vast quantities of the stuff, speaks for itself. A cleansing you could say. Then, in a couple of days it’s gone – that’s why I thought there’s an opportunity to use this wonderful quote at the end…

  3. thx for leading me to “neurodrooling”

    leading me to freewheeling …

    On one hand, it sounds correct that without the interpreter of the ‘memory’ there would be no remembrance. But logic does not reverse the direction of the implication.

    From my personal self reflecting experience, neither the memory, nor the remembrance seems to make a ‘self’.
    (1) A mind can construct a self, but memory is only one part of that construct.
    (2) An experiencer is not necessary a self if the mind keeps quiet.
    -> The experience of remembering is just that. It doesn’t necessarily contribute to the construct of a self either.

    … Then at a given point, the laws of reason become useless too. 🙂

    Great to see you again …

    • Hey Bert! Good to hear from you again. Well this is a discussion point for Cabrogal really. My take on it is that it’s freewheeling rather than anything else, the direction of the implication remains as it is, there are moments when a ‘self’ is conjured up and then it’s gone – there is no memory, only the act of remembering. The mind keeps quiet and there’s only an experiencer – but there’s more to it than that… words cannot reach

      • Yes, it can happen any time. Thanks for the Bugs Bunny intrusion from Warner Brothers. It says it all, false memory, the mind is more intent on creating a narrative than getting the facts right: David Loy, ‘The World is Made of Stories’ a collection of examples with minimal commentary. It’s just what the software does…

      • By strange coincidence I just watched a movie called Memento (I have no TV and watch less than a dozen movies a year).

        The protagonist has a damaged hippocampus and can’t form long term memories. He can remember up to the point he was injured but since then his memory is only minutes long and he tries to get by (and seek revenge on his wife’s killer – it’s a Hollywood movie after all) with a bunch of self generated memory cues (including tattoos) from which he attempts to reconstruct the narrative of both his wife’s death and his quest for vengeance.

        The twist at the end (spoiler alert) is that he’s been deliberately creating cues that will mislead him in order to construct a narrative that he’s comfortable with. It’s also revealed that his pre-injury ‘memories’ are no more reliable than the false pseudo-memories he creates with his misleading cues.

        To me the take home question is “How much do I do that to myself?”.

      • I’ve got a kinda overload here, the important thing I get from the Memento review by Kenneth Taylor is the word ‘repair’… I’m an optimist, why not?: “Perhaps the self is always in the process of being made, unmade and remade.” There’s no ‘perhaps’ about it. Right Intention. There are a few references in the Buddha’s Teaching about ‘intention’, that which comes before karma. Mindfulness is a popular word these days but there’s the difference between theory and practice; when we think of a Mahathera in silence for years and constantly faced with stuff that seemingly contradicts. Then, okay, maybe we have experienced something like this but it doesn’t compare with the Mahathera whose conviction is far greater than ours. So what I’m saying is, it’s not possible to see that unless you’ve been there. And my plan is to see if I can rent the movie and get a better idea of what you’re talking about… that’s it, yes. Thank you…

      • I should clarify that I don’t really recommend the movie. Despite some interesting aspects of its premise it’s still pure Hollywood. Poor cinematography, mediocre acting, plenty of violence, a smattering of sex and a rather cynical view of human nature. The pastiche of flashbacks Taylor raves about strikes me as very contrived and inappropriate given that the protagonist can’t experience them.

        Nor would I recommend the analyses in the article I linked to (especially the one by Peter Singer). It seems to me that by and large Western academic philosophers have a pretty superficial grasp of anything that can’t be examined objectively and with a handful of exceptions (e.g. Schopenhauer) reject non-Western insights from a basis of little more than cultural chauvinism. (Pirsig’s dismissal of Hindu philosophy in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – which has nothing whatsoever to do with Zen – provides a case in point).

        I just mentioned the movie because it provided a fictional example of how memory can be manipulated in the quest for coherent narrative. I linked to the Guardian piece because it seemed to be strangely coincidental to the discussions here and was what prompted me to check out the movie.

        There’s one movie I watched this year I can recommend to you though.
        Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

      • Yeh, okay that sounds like a good idea: ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His past Lives’. We’d all need to avoid the house of cards that the corporations expect us to belive in. Thanks cabrogal, I’m a bit stressed right now, not getting it right…

  4. This post reminds me that I love air travel because it really imparts a sense of being a process rather than an entity. “Who am I? No answer required. No seeking, no wanting or needing. Just being with the question.” Good zen. Jeff

    • Thanks Jeff, yes this is it exactly. It reminds me too, there’s something about the process that says to us that that’s all it is. High points and extremes and everything but that’s what it comes down to. Simplicity. So within that small context we have the opportunity to ask the question: “Who am I?”

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