The Thing About Memory

“The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good,” wrote the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Marquéz.

Not true, said Abi*, a participant on the Wellbeing College’s most recent ‘Writing With Memory’ workshop. In Abi’s experience, the heart’s memory worked to the contrary: it magnified the bad and eliminated the good, rendering the second half of Marquez’s theory meaningless – that, “It is thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

In this workshop, part of the 3-week ‘Telling Your Story’ course, learner’s are asked to relate personal memories in response to authors’ quotes on the nature of Memory. The idea of the exercise is to elicit positive memories, and the quotes specifically chosen to encourage this. It is not unusual, however, for learners, on finishing the exercise, to comment on the difficulty they found in thinking of a ‘good’ memory; many respond that the memories that immediately jump out are the bad ones, and to look past those and dig up the good takes time and more effort. It takes time and effort, but, to their surprise, the good memories are there.

That is the beauty of this exercise, it reminds us that García Marquéz’s take on memory is, in one way or another, disputable. The memory doesn’t really eliminate at all, it just buries; how willing we are to dig, and what we choose to dig for, is up to us.

*Name has been changed

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