Awareness and Amnesia

There are many of us who try hard to live being mindful, to live for the now, following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s not easy and most days I for one feel that I haven’t achieved the awareness and mindfulness that I would have liked.

Eating mindfully, walking mindfully – it’s harder than I originally thought it would be, but I’ll keep trying.

There are some people who can only live in the ‘now’ because for them their past is a memory that escapes them completely. Others have short term memory loss and yet the past is crystal clear.

As we get older we struggle at times to remember names of places, people, things. That’s not unusual and nor is it particularly worrying as we have amassed a tremendous amount of information over the years and if we see it like a shelf full of books or a desk full of papers – we can’t expect to retrieve the one we’re looking for immediately.

When I wrote the following poem, I had in mind someone who had sadly lost all memory of their past .

I Am Amnesia

I have no memory

I live for the present

I can read

but when did I learn to read,

where did I go to school,

where was I born?

I see myself in the mirror

I see who I am now

but who was I ?

Where did I live as a child,

who were my parents,

did I have siblings?

I have no memory

I have no past

I live in the now.

I am an empty slate,

a frame with no picture,

a book with blank pages.

I have no story,

I have no history

but I can write.

Can I see my future,

can I rebuild my past,

will I remember?


Time Passing

‘…the longer I live, the more I want to know’ are the words of Vershinin in Chekov’s play Three Sisters. Many can identify with this sentiment. With knowledge comes ignorance is also a truism – the more we know the more we realise we don’t know.

When children are young they are constantly asking questions and soak up information like a sponge but, as the years go by, it becomes increasingly harder to absorb and remember facts.

With age comes an awareness of the lengthening of times in the past and the shortening of times yet to come. If it were possible to slow down the passing of time, would that be desirable? Can we, by being more aware in the present, make more of the future?

Knowledge and wisdom are not the same. There are some who carry a great deal of knowledge in their heads, but would we consider them wise?  We can strive to know more about all manner of things, but if we don’t ‘know ourselves’ and are blind to the needs of others around us, then the knowledge acquired could be described as irrelevant.

However, learning another language, acquiring new skills does keep the mind alive and we’re told that little grey cells need to be kept busy as that will help to prevent the onset of dementia. It’s good to share an interest with like-minded folk and having a focus, learning and sharing knowledge certainly makes life richer and more enjoyable.

So, as years go by, how should the ageing population focus on what is meaningful? It is easy to become very busy and fill our lives with rushing around after family or spending time being busy with all kinds of ‘stuff,’ but should we perhaps be spending more time sitting, meditating and being still? Would that perhaps lead to more peace of mind, greater insight into life?

An increasing awareness of time passing comes with age. TS Eliot’s words in Burnt Norton become more significant.

‘Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.’

James Robertson has produced a remarkable book 365 Stories. In 2013, he set himself the challenge of writing a short story on every day of the year. Each story was 365 words long. In 2014 they were published in book form.

This inspired me to try to write something – a poem, story, fact or fiction every single day in 2015. There was no way I could manage the exact target of 365 words. I would have been sitting for hours trying to trim pieces down to the right size. I did however, put a limit of 365 words. This was a much easier task, but at least it gave me some sort of restriction.

I failed to keep it up for a year – a car accident near the end of July that year caused more than a blip in the project, but I do have a bank of pieces of writing that I am now going back to and reworking. The piece above, Time Passing is one of them.