The Double-Edged Sword

“Memories are wonderful things, until you don’t have to deal with the past”, claims the naive, 22-year old version of Julie Delphy’s character from the movie Before Sunrise. There is something bitter sweet about the statement that somehow perfectly captures the very essence and dichotomy of dealing with memories.Mostly we go about the pace of our lives, trying hard for our present to count for something,  but memories have a way of presenting themselves at will, and then ofcourse you have to deal with the past.

On one such weekend, on my mission to de-clutter my room as an extension of being zen-like (at which I fail repeatedly due to my own short-comings), I stumbled upon my own piece of the past to deal with. It was a hand-written note from someone once very relevant in my life and I was transported a light-years away from the present at the time and feeling when the note was written. After a full 10 minutes, still undecided about whether the note still belonged in my clutter, I decided to shove it down under the mess, leaving that decision to bury/trash the past for another time in the future. And hence ironically, my attempt to de-clutter and organize physical objects, had me cluttered and mangled in the head for a bit.

Also around the same time, I had one of my travel mates from a study abroad program I undertook in 2008 upload some never-seen-before pictures from our trip on Facebook. Though I have run through at least a dozen albums from that trip before and have a 1000 pictures from my own collection, yet all the greatest memories of the trip from 3 years ago flooded my next hours. I smiled, laughed and shed a tear recalling and re-living the moments spent stupefied in Europe while making new friends. Instead of shoving the pics into a locked corner in my head like I did with the note, I thought hard about the exact conversations, the joke, the wonders at the time they were captured forever. In this case, I knew I wanted to guard with my life, the piece of the past these memories represented.

It is believed in Zen, Vipassana and I am sure many such schools that guide our journeys to an awakened living that in both the above scenarios, the double-edged sword be but one. Infact, there be no sword at all. In essence, irrespective of what memory any object might force you to confront, we can only really be happy if we were to see them as what they are- mere objects, since both the events have ceased to exist. Your pain and pleasure in the present is only derived from your attachment to the memory/object depending on how it worked out for you at the time.

On the other hand, I have often used these lines by Kahlil Gibran in my ‘About’ Page on social networking sites – “The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain hovering over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves. I am one of those who remembers such places regardless of distance or time. I do not let one single phantom disappear with the cloud, and it is my everlasting remembrance of the past that causes my sorrow sometimes. But if I had to choose between joy and sorrow, I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart for the joys of the whole world.”- Kahlil Gibran

Where then would one chose to be? On a path where we are to detach from pain and pleasure and rest the case of the sword or let the pleasure still dwell in us while we make the trade-off of keeping the pain with it, still letting it prick us once in while?

The question of course can’t be answered in words.


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