Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Why you should never forget importance of memory

Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel

Look at the date. It's April 17. Where did the year go already? What happened to, let's say, February 25? What was I doing. I can't remember. I've just looked it up on the calendar to find it was a Monday. A bit grim then, probably.

Post-weekend malaise and grey skies. University Challenge on the telly, followed by a bloke made out of cardboard showing us how to bake.

But one thing is sure. It passed without incident, with no glamour or even notoriety. A nothing day was February 25, like so many others.

I may have laughed a bit, possibly (as I get older) even cried if I heard a favourite piece of music.

I'll have probably tried to learn a few things, most of which I will have forgotten by the end of the day.

My memory is not good anymore, so even if February 25 was a little bit better than normal I would have forgotten.

The great Spanish film director, Luis Bunuel said life was over when your memory went. "You have to begin to lose your memory, even if only in bits and pieces, to realise that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it we are nothing," said the legendary surrealist, who towards the end struggled to remember his fabulous collaborations with Salvador Dali.

It's not helped when everything seems to exist in an exhausting whirl. Was it really 13 years ago that we brought in the new millennium with huge hangovers and a super-virus scare story? Where have those years gone?

Take this year, not just run-of the-mill February 25. I had a line-up of winter/spring events to see me through the grim months, things to savour. Kraftwerk at the Tate Modern and a lads' weekend in Barcelona being the two highlights. They've all gone.

Like a runaway train, 2013 is hurtling down the tracks to oblivion. It can't be stopped, but can it be slowed down?

As I get older, the imperative to stand and stare rather than tear arse about from one day to the next becomes more urgent.

Inability to savour the moment is a curse of modern life, with its 24/7 news, its texting and Facebooking, its swivel-eyed people straining to overachieve.

There's no downtime and I'm no better than anyone. The world is on a communal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder trip.

Why else was Margaret Thatcher's ability to function on four hours' sleep lauded as a sign of leadership quality, rather than early evidence of derangement?

Searching for answers about how others might tackle the time problem, I recently bought a magazine called The Idler, which is supposed to celebrate the more sedentary among us.

But reading it was undermined for me by the obvious irony that The Idler could not, of course, be produced by the idle. The editor has a Sunday newspaper column, for God's sake.

Could the answer be found on Google, where so many of the mysteries of the universe are said to be solved? Zen meditation, painting watercolours and flotation tanks all came up in the search. Come on, I haven't got time for those, I've got things to do.

A further search led to what I can only describe as a site for those who want to slow down time, but who haven't got time to slow down time.

The first, take a deep breath and let it out slowly, got me back about a minute-and-a-half. The second, close your eyes and empty your mind, was just plain scary.

Have you ever tried thinking of nothing? It's hard work. I'm working on the third, find a dark place and stay there for as long as you can, right now.

Hang on. Who's that at the door? It's the comment editor telling me I'm an hour past deadline for this column. Can't hang around, gotta go.

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