Let me start this post with a little story- moments from life in these times:
” That morning, it was raining. Quite unusual for this time of the year. He opened his eyes, unsure of what had awakened him. The alarm hadn’t gone off. The clock dial showed 5 a.m. He lay in bed, listening to the sound of the rain outside. He buried his head in his pillow and tried to go back to sleep. But somehow, the rain kept him awake…just awake enough to not go back to sleep. A state of calm nothingness. A memory came floating into that nothingness. He remembered that night from many years ago, when he had stood beneath the lamp post in the rain, with his best friend, holding hands. They had waited for the rain to stop, and it was at the same time that both gazed up at the raindrops that sprinkled on them like drops of gold, in the yellow light of the lamp. They gazed in silence, spellbound by the beauty of what they saw, unable to speak a word. After long moments of silence, they looked into each others’ eyes, overwhelmed. And both instantly knew that the magic of that moment did not have to be verbalized, for it was there in their eyes.
Those days had been different. There was the luxury of time. He remembered how their friendship had evolved at a slow, steady pace over time. They spent a lot of time together, unrushed by the need to analyze their relationship. Just as with the magical moment under the lamp post, it had been unnecessary to verbalize their emotions for each other. They just settled effortlessly into their friendship, savouring every moment of it. On most days, they went out. Sometimes, on long strolls and at other times, for a drive. At times, he rode the bike. He loved her for her emotional spectrum…her ability to find excitement and joy in the essence of an experience, rather than in its superficial appeal…her child-like joy at every new experience he treated her to. The gender difference never really came between them. They were like two children exploring the world. That she was a woman only made it more special. They talked endlessly about nothing and everything. They ate out at cosy places where the food perhaps tasted extra nice on account of the bonding they shared. He had a taste for places and together, they let the city come to them. There had also been times when they settled for some toast and marmalade at home and poured cups of coffee to go with it. In every endeavour, big or small, there had been so much richness.
The beep of the alarm broke his reverie. The rain had stopped. It had just been a half hour of memories, but his mind had travelled at the speed of light. He thought of the day ahead; it was going to be a long day. By 7, he was out of the house. As he walked towards the cafe for a quick bite, his phone rang. A colleague was on the line. Over breakfast, he discussed with his colleague the intricacies of the new project. As anticipated, it was another busy day at work. A meeting, a difficult client, pending work that needed immediate sorting, bills that needed to be cleared, plans that needed approving, tickets that had to be booked, tasks that needed to be handed over, and so much more. In the middle, he had somehow found time to order lunch and cater to the needs of his stomach. At 7, he had left office with a colleague and after some unwinding over dinner and drinks, he had finally come back home. When he came out of the shower, it was to realize that it was raining again. He suppressed his urge to pick up his mobile and reach out to the world that dwelled there. He just sunk into the couch in the living room and through the glass doors of the balcony, watched the rain outside.
He felt very disturbed. Every day seemed so full, and yet, it was to an emptiness that he returned every evening. An emptiness that he filled with the virtual world. His life was a sea of events….one event merging into the other in no time. He tried to run through the day in his mind. But all he could remember with clarity and peace was the morning reverie and the rain. He tried to recollect what he had eaten for breakfast, and was surprised at how hard he had to try before he could recollect. He looked back at the events of the week. He had met interesting people, indulged in enriching conversations, enjoyed his badminton sessions, been productive at work. He loved his work and he was his own boss. And yet, work had also transformed as an experience. Despite enriching moments, he still felt empty and disturbed.
He walked into the little room that he now used as a store. He moved aside the luggage bags and cartons and looked at the room. This was his work studio before he had bought the place where he had set up his office now. He sat by the window and reflexively reached out for the lamp switch. He switched it on and off. Through the window, he saw the city- a sea of shimmering lights. After a while, he switched off the lamp. The room was in darkness. Outside, the city looked beautiful. ‘I love sitting in the darkness and taking in the beauty of the city. This studio is beautiful!’, she used to say. Light and dark- they had both loved the contrast of it…the fact that one enhanced the other.
On an impulse, he fetched his laptop and switched it on. He looked up mails she had sent him a long time ago. They had all been long mails, full of life. He read through them with renewed zeal. He then sat back, lost in thought. When was the last time someone had mailed him? Or he had mailed someone? Apart from work, there was none. He scrolled through the texts and instant messages on his phone. They appeared pale and dry. And then he knew what was wrong with him and with the world.
It was all fleeting. The pace was so fast that there was never the time to let a feeling percolate deep into the senses, deep into perception, and root itself into an unconscious memory. Emotions need to be brewed like tea. Until you brew it long enough, the essence of the tea will never permeate the concoction, and it will indeed be a weak tea, unappealing to the senses. Multitasking and pace was erasing every fresh emotion with a new one, exhausting the body and mind, without really permeating the mind or building memories. Thoughts were always far ahead of feeling. On instant messaging, before you could delve deep into one context, the other person had already shifted your trail of thought. More range, less depth. ”
Loneliness and depression are the epidemics of our times. If we don’t heed to them and fight them, we are only going to run into a deeper mess of mental health issues in the future. Unconscious memories are an important component of our mental health. In a fast paced world, everything happens so quickly that there is no time to form deep rooted memories. However intense a moment might have been, the next moment, a fresh event uses up the machinery of the brain. The first feeling is wiped away by the second, it doesn’t last or build up progressively to be locked into memory. It is analogous to writing on water. As children, when emotions are primary and thoughts secondary, we are in a phase of imbibing experiences and forming unconscious memories. These memories in later life, lay the foundation for our overall optimism, mood and energy. On this baseline, we have our ups and downs. And so, it is vital to give our children good memories, based on active experiences. In a world where every experience is fleeting, our children never spend enough time with an experience, long enough for them to brew this emotion into a memory that incorporates itself into the foundation of the mind. And this is not just a lacuna on the part of the parents, but on the whole society. Parents in these times, have valid constraints in terms of providing the best possible environment for the growth and development of their children. The nature of jobs is no longer the same as it used to be, and so is the case with lifestyle. And so, they need to be supported adequately by society. Schools can play a very important role in providing this support, but thanks to materialism-driven objectives, schools are also transforming children into mechanized gadgets. In the absence of memories, there is no potential for bonding, attachment, learning or creativity.
Let me end this article here with a recommendation that comes from a teacher who practices this on her students. Her students maintain a diary. They write about their day to day experiences in it. They do this over time, and this can help a parent/teacher/psychologist/their own selves to get into the journey of their minds. It is a healthy practice for anybody and everybody. On that note, let me end, wishing you all a happy new year. May the essence and fragrance of your unconscious penetrate deeper into your conscious!