Have you ever known someone who was always longing to re-live the past? They weren’t content to only remember, but wanted to go back and experience it again and again? Perhaps you’ve felt the same way.
We sometimes see the experiences of the past as distinct from our memory of them in the present. Memory is fine as far it goes, but it’d be even better to go back and re-live the original experience again. In Out of the Silent Planet, Hyoi, one of the non-human characters, comments on this way of thinking:
“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, [human], as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure… When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then—that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it."1
The pleasures of the past don’t end with the initial experience. Their meaning and significance continue to develop as we see them in a broader context. We may even come to treasure seemingly trivial events of the past—things we didn’t make much of at the time—that we now realize were more significant than we initially realized.
There would be no memory of an event without the initial experience. But there would also be no understanding and ongoing pleasure of the same thing without calling it to mind. We may have plenty of fond memories to retrieve from the past. But those initial moments were only the beginning; they weren’t full-grown then. That’s something that only comes with time.
In writing this post, I was reminded of one I wrote two years ago.
C. S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, chap. 12. ↩︎