In Memory

This piece was performed at the Bangkok Poetry’s Event entitled “In Memory.” It was held May 22nd at WTF Gallery in Bangkok. The audience turnout was low due to the coup, so I thought to share it here.

Earlier this month, a friend of ours was killed in Cambodia. What struck me so hard about losing her was that, while I only knew her from a few encounters, quite a few years back, I felt her loss very strongly. My sense of loss was so intense that it got me questioning what really makes a memory? When I saw the “In Memory” theme come up just a few days after, I felt compelled to write and perform something in her honour. I am not much of a writer or a performer, but I felt the need to do something. So this is for Daphna Beerdsen and her daughter Dana. May they live on, not in our memories, but in our DNA.

“In Memory”

I don’t care for this term, this idea that we carry people in our minds after they leave us, it just doesn’t sit well with me.  You see, memory is the retrieval of encoded and stored data from the hippocampus located in the temporal lobe of the brain.

The way I feel when I think of the people that I have lost, I am sure that this description is less than sufficient.

Every day, in one way or another, we interact with 100s, maybe thousands of individuals- all day, every day, for most of us- from grocery store clerks to fellow commuters. This does not even take into account friends, family and acquaintances.

We see people, we hear people, and receive numerous electronic messages from people all day long, every day. Roughly, if you were to add it up, you would count, at minimum, 40,000 encounters a year. At the end of our lives we will have experienced millions and millions of interactions with other humans.

I have come to realize over the years, that when you interact, in anyway with someone, whether you pick up their change on the side of the road, yell at them for jumping the queue, or tell them your life story, you make them a part of you. What I mean by this is that these interactions shape us, they build us, as if they were restructuring our entire DNA sequence, whether we remember these individuals or not. These interactions are embedded in our subconscious forever, resulting in how we see the world.

With all these interactions, we remember some so strongly. THAT “data” is stored in the conscious mind, but for others, these encounters will slip by unnoticed. By this logic, if every interaction is life changing, and so damn important, why do we only remember a select few?

Now, over the course of my life I have lost many people, in one way or another, just due to prolonged travel, arguments and obstinance, and when people leave this life for good. What I have come to realise is that, when these people leave us, we can hold onto memories, and that is all well and good. We can retrieve all kinds of encoded and stored data: names, faces, laughs, smiles, acts of kindness, conversations, etc. But for those that we miss the most, is it the remembering itself that causes us so much anguish? Or is there something else?

In life there are times when you truly let someone in, when you are truly open to people, whether you interact with someone on a continual basis or just once. What’s left when they’re gone is more than a memory, more than data. There are these people that are open to us, that let us in, that let us take parts of them, even though the risks are great. These people will receive you, they invite you in. You don’t have to know them for long, sometimes you can spend a night drinking with them, or meet them on a long bus ride. These people are open, and ready to let you transform their DNA, for better or worse. And when this happens, they don’t just remain in your brain, they take over your whole heart and soul.

This openness, it is the key, it brings us together, it elucidates the infinite connections all around us, it reminds us that no matter where we are from, or what we are carrying around, we are connected. These people mark your soul and permeate your being. When these people leave your presence, something remains behind and it is not a damn memory, it is so much more.

The thing about memories is, they fade. When your brain no longer needs the stored data it shifts it just out of your reach to make space for things like Katie Perry’s song lyrics and other useless information. That, however, does not mean the indelible mark that people leave on your heart and soul will ever go away. Under this logic you can change the world by kindness, compassion and, by opening your heart, by not being afraid to give a piece of you away with every encounter. By doing this you will receive love in return, which will fill the void and that is the connection that makes life worth living, and that is what you are leaving behind.

And so to Daphna, and all the others that have left long before I wish they would have,

I am sorry, you will not live on in my memory, my data encoding and storing hippocampus will let you go one day, but you will live in every part of my heart and soul. I hope keeping a part of you here on earth is ok with you because you left behind a lot with me and with everyone else who was lucky enough to receive your love and kindness.

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