The spotless mind

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d

I’d seen it before, years ago. It didn’t mean much to me. I guess I was asleep then. I’m awake now and everything has meaning.

A technology which can eliminate the rough patches of our pasts and our memories seems so appealing. Sometimes so appealing that its costs seem worth it.  How much simpler would life be if we could get rid of everything that caused us pain?

But the past isn’t a linear thing. You can’t cut out everything after a date certain and leave what came before. Pleasure and pain have an awful way of becoming bound up together and ultimately they become inseparable. After all, you can’t be hurt by someone about whom you never cared. And you can’t move on from someone if you remember only the good and forget what sent everything sideways in the end. If you try to eliminate the bad memories you eliminate everything. And then you are nothing.

So you forge on, your burden heavier over time. You’re wiser, that’s for sure. More savvy. Better able to handle the road ahead. But you still have that added weight. Some days it doesn’t seem so heavy. Other days it’s almost impossible to lift. If you’re lucky that sharper mind overcomes all that extra matter. You’re not always lucky.

The most perverse thing about it all? It’s easier to carry that pain than it is to remember the pleasure. At least you’re moving forward away from the pain. The pleasure beckons to you from way back. Mocks you even.  God damn the path ahead would be simpler if the path behind was nothing more than a slog. But as you move forward it feels like while you’re retreating from some things, you’re abandoning others.

Maybe it’s better to just obliterate the past. Even if it means obliterating part of yourself. I don’t know how one would do that, but it often seems appealing.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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