The Frustrations of a Fallible Mind

by Lucy Mellor

Unimaginable complexity; the norm in a society consumed by technology most of us don’t understand. Taken most for granted though, is the human form; familiar as anything, and yet no-one has quite figured us out. Criticism of the self comes far too easily, but we are all a microcosm of the universe itself, a million different processes happening in our cells every day. Copy War and Peace 300 times without a single mistake? This happens every time our cells divide and our DNA is copied.

Not surprising then, that we aren’t entirely infallible. But no process is quite as rubbish as our memory. It matters not so much when a day is mundane. I’m glad that our minds aren’t filled with every insignificant detail of everything that has ever happened, or ever will happen, to us.

But the times you really want to remember. The nights you get into bed and spend just a couple of minutes before you go to sleep thinking about the wonder of that day, and the joy you can still feel. Then you wake up in the morning and it’s gone, a shadow of its former self if anything remains at all.

Of the 7078 days I have lived at the time of writing, I am confident that more than a handful of these were happy, and good things happened, but they’re out of reach, locked in a box on a high shelf my five foot self cannot grasp. Occasionally a box falls off the shelf, triggered by a word, or image, or the smell of a summer evening which was only spent on a balcony overlooking Funchal harbour, playing cards with my grandparents for arbitrary trophies like the moon and the stars.

Actively trying to commit an event to memory can help, but is often futile. The desire to remember morphs into frustration at the inability of the mind to perform such a task, stronger than any previous awe one might have had for an entity performing an inordinate number of miracles at any one time.

Memory is the foremost area whereby the brain lets us down, evolution not caught up with our wishes to recall the coolness of an ice cream from a funfair in mid-June, no obvious aid to our survival. Survival of a sense of identity certainly, but not a priority for a being whose main purpose is to exist until the next day.

There is a lingering sadness that once happy times may never be relived, a lurking feeling that life is passing by quicker than can be dutifully jotted down in the mind’s notebook. Sometimes I wish there was a camera on my forehead, so that at any time I might scroll back through footage and experience it again, but in the crisp quality captured by video cameras and not through the hazy smog of a memory blurred at the edges by time and lack of attention.

The dissatisfaction is exacerbated by being a fault in myself, an area in which I am lacking but am unable to compensate for, save for taking photographs at every opportunity. The only conclusion is acceptance of this flaw in biology and the living of life anyway; I could train my memory to be better, but it is laborious, and besides, there are memories of good times to be made and forgotten.


The Poor Print

The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford, with contributions from members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff. New issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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