On Borges’ Funes, the Memorious

16 Feb

Upon reading Borges’ Funes, the Memorious, it occurred to me that the inability to forget sounds like pure torture. Ireneo spoke as if getting thrown off a horse and suddenly being blessed with the capability to remember everything was the greatest thing that happened to him. Had that happened to me, I’d feel as if I were living a nightmare. Ireneo wasn’t just one of those people we label as having a pretty good memory. This guy remembered every single leaf on every single branch on every single tree in every single forest. He remembered every word spoken to him and every gesture made in his sight. He even remembered every time  he acquired new memories. In other words, he could remember himself remembering. What a vicious cycle.

In exploring more Nietzsche philosophy this week, I suppose Ireneo was really a depressed guy. Nietzsche used the analogy of a cow to depict the idea of “active forgetting.” Nietzsche suggests that because it has no past, the cow is always happy. But the cow cannot confirm its happiness accurately because it does not have the ability to recall its previous state. How would it know it was ever sad?

If Ireneo ever incurred an unpleasant moment in his life, he had the power to dwell on the experience forever. This wouldn’t have been the usual reminiscing that we are used to today. These memories  start off as vivid early on and eventually fade with time. No, Ireneo would have remembered every explicit detail which would help make these flooding memories rich and accurate every single time, maybe even just as painful as when first experienced. He would have never been able to overcome a haunting event and I think that’s pretty sad. Imagine going through an embarrassing or traumatizing moment in your life and continuously replaying the scene over and over again in your head. But not just the scene itself, recalling every fine detail that made the moment embarrassing or traumatizing. Sounds like insanity!

Lingering on the past has the potential to  preclude happiness, necessary action, and further development in the present and future. Nietzsche calls for an abandonment from our pasts because it “returns as a ghost and disturbs the peace of a later moment.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.


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