I came across a situation the other day where someone was trying desperately to remember something that had slipped from their mind. It became a moment of self reflection for me as I realised I no longer get frustrated when I forget stuff. I traced the contours of this epiphany and began to pinpoint when it all began…I was delivered to the mid-stages of my doctorate.
At this time I was in the midst of an explosion of thought. I had completed the key parts of my research and I was analysing the data. At the same time I was reading a whole bunch of un-explored literature and coming up with some great new ideas. I found that I was holding so much complex information in my head I was unable to deal with it all. Even to the point where if I was making notes I couldn’t scribble them out, or type fast enough to get out all the subtleties of the interconnecting ideas. I would try to stay up late until I had thought through, followed up, and recorded my thoughts. It was difficult and frustrating to deal with it all.
Then I fell in love with forgetting. I simply had to sleep, or I had to attend to my kids, or other mundane and earthly issues. In these moments when my thoughts were fractured I began to appreciate the catharsis of letting it all go. I realised that by forgetting, or losing my train of thought, I came back sharper with a more elegant mind. At times I thought I had grasped something truly beautiful and I marched home seeking a moment to jot it down…but it had flown. But when my next idea came it was more solid, more memorable, more accessible. Thus forgetting helped me improve.
To bring this to a wider field of analysis the human mind has remarkable abilities to remember and forget. In many cases forgetting can be regarded as a necessary defence mechanism to make the world liveable, understandable, bearable. I think that the human mind has a certain buoyancy and that we must trust it to deliver, when necessary, the truly useful information we require.
But now thinking about what I wrote…just forget it.