“If they can make machines to save us labor, someday they’ll do our hearts the very same favor”
My grandfather fought in World War II. He was wounded and left for dead in a field in France. He came home from the front physically and mentally scarred for life. I only knew him in his later years; and only really got to know him in his much later years. After my grandmother passed away, visiting grandpa was something I did multiple nights each week. We lived within walking distance of his house, so it was easy to pop over and say hello and see how he was doing. As the years wore on, it became very apparent that he knew less and less about me and whatever happened during his day; and way more about what happened to him 30, 40, or even 50 years ago. He could vividly recount stories of basic military training, or his wedding day, but he couldn’t remember our conversation from the last ten minutes. It perplexed me at the time. His forgetfulness never reached the point of being dangerous. But grandpa had a support system to get him through his later years without incident. Others aren’t so fortunate.
The song that’s the title of this post is another way of thinking about what we are as human beings — we are machines built on memories. We start building our memories — almost like a blank hard drive — the moment we’re born. And we continue to add and forget throughout the finite period of time that we’re here on Earth.
Each memory we make or forget changes us. When we see something truly memorable — something that truly impacts us — the memory is embedded in our consciousness. It makes a proverbial impression. And it changes who we are; for better or for worse. Alternatively, when we forget something — no matter how small — we lose a piece of who we used to be. It’s a change in our definition. It’s enough to make you realize that for as much we make memories, memories make us.
The Dismemberment Plan - “Memory Machine”
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