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My Two Selves

January 19, 2014

As AM, BK, and DMG were putting on their shoes to head out the door, I let out an unconscious “Mmmmh” — the kind of Mmmmh you let out after a very satisfying meal.

“What was that?” asked AM. Of course, he was making fun of me. “Did you just breathe in the scent of fresh air and was super content about it?” The others and I laughed. “I was just very content that’s all! I don’t know!” “You’re an easy person to please,” replied AM. “You know, I really do think I am! Perhaps I don’t have enough faith in humanity because every time someone does something nice for me, I get really happy!” Again, the others laugh, and even BK agreed with me.

After they left, I took a fair amount of time cleaning up. I thought back to earlier in the evening when AM had just arrived, and we were sitting around at the dinner table, cutting out the card game I had downloaded (legally!) from the internet, and talking about the notion of “Selfishness.” Believe me, I do not remember how we got to talking about that. But hey, that’s the thing I love most about AM. We always have the most riveting conversations–the kind that gets me off my chair, all up in his face, yelling, “You’re WRONG!!!!!”

Just kidding….

While I washed the dishes, I thought back to when DMG and BK arrived, and how DMG told me that he had busted out his Food Network guide to help him create his dish. We unwrapped it to find asparagus wrapped in bacon. Mind you, it did look super impressive, but I made fun of him for needing the Food Network to help him out with that. I also reprimanded him for neglecting to read the “no animals, please” part of my invite.

While I pushed the table back from the living room into our kitchen/dining room, I thought about how surprised and happy I was that KL, MS, KC had unexpectedly shown up, and how KL’s hug was so comforting that I felt like falling asleep right there, caught in his embrace (mind you, I did have quite a bit of champagne at this point…).

After I finished washing the dishes, I jumped into the shower. I thought back to when we all sat around in a circle, playing the card game, and how MR and OC were the funniest people in the game. I thought about how poor CN didn’t win any rounds because he was too nice of a person and not corrupted like the rest of us.

As I brushed my teeth, I thought about all the food there was, and how delicious MR’s quiches were, and how thrilled I was that CN had made his spaghetti again (but this time, sans meat). I smiled when I thought about how much OC loved my cookies and how when I had set the plate down in front of him, he had said to me , “You know I’m a cookie monster, right?”

When I was fluffing my pillows and straightening out my duvet, I thought about how touched I had felt when several people on different occasions asked me if I were still blogging. Some of them surprised me with that question because I hadn’t known that they knew how important blogging was to me.

And finally, while I was lying in bed last night, I thought about how despite the fact that I’ve always said that I really don’t want to come back to this city for a very long time after I graduate, a part of me will actually miss this place once I leave. I thought about the friends I’ve made and how I most likely won’t see the majority of them again once we all leave. I thought about how this city and the people I’ve met here have played a huge role in defining who I am today.

And then I fell asleep.

Two nights ago, in an effort to lull myself out of my restlessness, I decided to watch a Ted Talk series on Netflix called, “Head Games,” in which presenters mostly talked about neurological processes that underpin human behaviour. One particular video that stayed with me was Nobel Prize-winning Daniel Kahneman’s talk on “The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory.” (You can read his paper by clicking here.) In a nutshell, Kahneman explains that within each person (who, of course, is not amnesic) are two selves: “the experiencing self,” and “the remembering self.”

Right now, my “experiencing self” is experiencing the act of writing on my blog. I am experiencing pleasure for putting my thoughts down into words. Yet at the same time, my “remembering self” is present too, for I am writing about my memories of last night’s pot luck. But this isn’t the enlightening eureka! part of Kahneman’s theory.

According to Kahneman, your experiencing self and remember selves are completely different. Your experiencing self can have a whole different experience than your remembering self. You experienced one thing, and you remember it as being more painful, more fun, more exciting, or more disastrous than it really was. Of course, we all know how unreliable our memories can be. Why are memories so unreliable? Because we let our emotions come into play. Kahneman stresses the importance of the ending of any particular experience. You could be listening to a wonderful symphony for twenty minutes and be experiencing utter transcendental euphoria, but if it ends with a blood-curdling screech, that’ll be all you’ll take away from that experience. That’ll be all you will remember. And when you go on to tell your friends about it, you’ll exclaim how awful that experience was. Forget the 19.75 minutes of utter euphoria! All you care about is the 15 seconds of screeching at the end.

For all of yesterday (leading up to the pot luck), this was all I thought about. I even brought it up at NL at one point. I introduced Kahneman’s theory to her by first asking her if she thought she could ever be happy if she could never remember anything–in other words, if she were amnesic. Of course, no one doubts the happiness of amnesiacs, but at the same time, I think you would agree that the majority of people wouldn’t choose a life of amnesia for themselves.

A couple of months ago, when I was taking a class on the human brain, and going through cases of amnesia, I thought about how awful it would be to be unable to recall experiences. Yesterday, however, I found myself returning to this question. What is it about memories that makes us hold onto them so dearly? Why do we care so much about memories especially when they can never represent the reality as it truly was? The answer, of course, is obvious. Leaving aside traumatic memories (and the likes of it), we give memories so much value because it provides us with what I like to think is some sort of double happiness.

I know I was experiencing happiness last night at my pot luck. Yes, this is true. As I recall the memory this morning, thinking about how fun I had last night, I, again, am happy. So that’s why we remember. We remember because it fills our hearts with happiness when we remember. My, how very Aristotelian. But I guess that’s why I always take photographs, why I used to keep detailed diaries, and why I blog. Because I want to remember.

In fact, the very first thought that occurred to me today was, “Oh man! I forgot to take pictures last night.” That thought was accompanied by a slap to the head–all of this while I was still lying in bed, but luckily, DM saved me there.

I received an e-mail this afternoon from DM with the subject line, "Picture of the blog." Gosh, I just adore DM.

I received an e-mail this afternoon from DM with the subject line, “Picture for the blog.” And I didn’t even have to ask! Gosh, I just adore DM.

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