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"That sword, the mace, the crown imperial shall sleep so soundly as the wretched slave."


Forgetting Fraggle Rock

06 Apr 2002

I'm sitting in the passenger seat of a car, eyes glazed as the expressway drifts past. Unbidden, I remember that a high school friend had a certain fondness for "Fraggle Rock", a kid's television show from the early 80's. I don't know why she liked it, and I haven't spoken to my friend in years. So what good is knowing this? How does it help me in my day-to-day living? Wouldn't it be better if I could just make a conscious decision to forget that memory and free up those brain cells for more useful activities, such as remembering my friends' birthdays and keeping track of my keys?

Just for fun, let's suppose that you could deliberately forget things. If I decide to forget something, do I also forget about deciding to forget, or is that erased too? Let's say I wanted to forget about something. Here I am forgetting it. Right. All done. Now, while I don't remember the thing any more, do I still have the memory of deciding to forget it? Is it like the feeling you get when you know you had planned to meet someone, but can't remember when, or where? The book may be gone from your mental library, but there still a card for it in the catalog? Say there is. You could then choose to forget that you had forgotten something, but then you'd still have the memory of having forgotten about forgetting. You'd have entered an endless loop of dissatisfied remembering and forgetting.

The other alternative is just creepy: suppose you can forget things completely -- both the thing and the forgetting. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? That's not the way the mind works, you say. Ok. Prove it. My claim is that you can actually, deliberately, forget things so that they leave no trace. Prove me wrong.