First, I want to say thanks to Finn and the HUB. You are courageous in the way you open up to each other, and that has inspired me to share these thoughts.
If you’ve ever seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you’ll know why I’m writing this post. It’s one of those movies that you can’t help but feel touched by, and you certainly can’t watch and just go straight to bed. It’s a movie about memory. It’s a movie about love.
The film asks us a simple question: What would it be like to have a loved one erased from our memories?
Think of someone close to you.
Your parent. Your sister. Your partner. Your friend.
What memories do you have together? Who would you be today if you had never met?
For many, these memories are fading every day. People drift apart and lose contact. But there are people we could never forget, no matter how many miles or years separate us.
Now I’m going to ask you to do something crazy.
Take that one person in mind, that one deep connection. Imagine that what you feel for this one person is not unique. In fact, you have felt the same intense love for others before; it’s just that you’ve forgotten. Been brainwashed by a sci-fi company with a tiny office in Boston. And not just one or two others, but EVERYONE. You were at one point deeply connected, in LOVE, with every individual soul on this planet earth.
This may sound a little strange, and I felt just that way the first time I heard it as well. But in my case, it wasn’t explained as love – it was explained as knowledge.
A professor at MIT once told us a story about Socrates. Socrates was thinking (as he often did) about learning. When we are trying to learn something new, how do we know when we reach the right answer? For instance, if you didn’t know what Spanish sounds like, how would you know if heard a new language that it was Spanish? This tricky problem came to be known as the “Learning Problem”.
Socrates carried this question into an argument with a friend and finally arrived at an answer. Aristotle’s solution was both simple and surprising; he proposed that everyone begins life knowing all knowledge, but that we have forgotten everything. Thus, learning is simply the act of remembering. When we remember something, we feel certain that it is correct because we knew it before*. (See Socrates’ proof by example).
So back to my challenge to you. Imagine that we already know and love everyone. We’ve just been brainwashed and need to be reminded. We need to recreate our memories together.
How would you treat that waiter differently if you know that you two share the closest of memories? Or how would you greet a stranger if you know that you two have shared your deepest secrets, it’s just that you’ve forgotten the moment.
What if you loved, and I mean true kinship and romance and camaraderie and closeness, every single person you encounter- and they loved you back! All you have to do is remember.
* The educational spin:
What if Socrates was right? How would a teacher treat their students differently if a child was not “learning” but “remembering”? As professor Uccelli explained, teachers can gain a lot by viewing their job as “expanding background knowledge” rather than “filling an empty cup”. This kind of teaching and learning is motivational because it reminds students of their enormous potential.