Meaning without Memories

MemoriesI try redeeming my parental chauffeur times by talking with my kids. Last post I wrote about talking with my daughter about “Warts & the Meaning of Life“. Well, my 13 year-old son must also endure such conversations occasionally.

A week ago, during a Father-Son drive, we were talking about things I had done with him when he was around four or five years-old. He was shocked that could not remember any of them. He couldn’t even remember some of the fun things we did when he was seven and eight years-old.

“Wow, that is sad,” he said, thinking how our good memories just slip away. “I won’t remember a lot of things you did with me.”

“Well, its worse than you think, buddy” I said (not having read Parenting 101). “Do you know much about my father?” [He never met my father]

“No, not really. Just that he use to have a factory.” [He owned a plastics factory]

“Yeah that is not much from the long life he had. How about your great-grand parents — do you know anything about any of them?  After all, you had eight of them!”

“No,” he said, “I don’t know anything about any of them.”

“You see, Soren [pseudonym]”, I philosophized, “You, I and most people will eventually be forgotten in about two or three generations if not much sooner. Almost none of our memories will endure. In the long run, no one will remember me and no one will remember you.”

“Arghhhh!”  he said with a huge sigh.

Knowing the sigh was coming, I was ready to offer a glimmer of hope in my otherwise apparently dark philosophy of life:

“But there is something that lasts for a long, long time, even though memories fade quickly”, I said before depression settled on my sensitive son. “Something actually remains from all those fun things that you and I did even though you can’t remember them. The happiness, the security, and the love which helped form who you are today — they remain. So in a way, all those good times I made for you endured.  They just don’t remain as any memory of me.  But I am OK with that. And because you feel secure, loved and confident, it will be more easy for you to pass the same things on to others too.”

“So the trick is,” I continued “to learn to value that which remains besides memories or visible marks. Learn to value the good because it can remain for many generations. Learn not to care about your name and your stories — don’t worry if they remain. Instead, learn to enjoy that which is deeper than your identity and learn how to share it without expectation of being remembered.”

“I actually get that Dad, thanks.” and a smile crossed my son’s face again.


Note:  I just had my son proof this story and he agrees to its accuracy — well, as far as he can remember. 🙂


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

5 responses to “Meaning without Memories

  1. TWF

    Well done. That’s a tough concept for a lot of people to deal with, but, judging by your son’s response, you’ve done superbly.

  2. @ TWF,
    The trick is to keep that dwelling positive so that avoiding memories or attachment to memories is not the goal — for that certainly is not the goal. Instead it is learning to find a more pleasant mind state. Hmmm, that is hard to verbalize.

  3. Earnest

    This post is very Ancient Greek. Which is not actually a bad thing. Nice story Sabio.

  4. I feel better myself. Thanks for sharing this. Interested in adopting me? :mrgreen:

  5. TWF

    Indeed, Sabio. It’s one of those simple-yet-subtle truths that’s often hard to communicate in a way that rings true to others. But once you get it, oh, what a difference it makes!

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