Remember to Forget!!


A distraught husband went running to a doctor and pleaded, “Doctor, please do something about my wife’s memory, I am in great trouble.” The doctor enquired, “What do you mean, does she forget everything?” “No, she remembers everything,” said the devastated husband.

Today’s article in TOI provides an opportunity to reflect on two of the complementing and yet conflicting gifts of God to humanity. We’ve frequently extolled the virtues of remembering. We hail those with perfect memory as heroes. In this context, it may be worthwhile to remember what Elbert Hubbard, an American writer and a publisher, had said long ago: Retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.

Just visualize, If we all constantly remembered every transgression we committed, whether towards God or towards humanity, every sin that we committed, every setback that we suffered and every misdemeanor we perpetrated: We would be simply inundated with untold guilt and unmatched misery. An un-erasable memory would have ensured life-long grief over the death and departure of the near and dear ones. Not just the bad happenings, it is about pleasant happenings too. One can’t be rejoicing the same triumph endlessly, however lofty it may be.

A neurologist had observed once: Just imagine, If one was courting Gita earlier and finally ended up marrying Sita, how difficult it would have been for him to be able to say, ‘I love you, Sita.’ Life is lived in isolated islands of incidents, each independent of the other.

We are aware of the kind of love that existed between Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine, although both of them had numerous physical liaisons on the side. He was so much in awe of her that after their marriage, Napoleon was said to have kept a picture of her in his pocket and planted many kisses on it, every passing hour. He was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo and the British exiled him to a remote island. Before being exiled to St. Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte burnt the paintings of Josephine and a couple of sweethearts he had. Clarke, the English doctor who was treating him, asked, ” Emperor, you’re destined to live, the rest of your life, at this isolated island. Were not these paintings the last associations of your magnificent life and didn’t you desire to keep those paintings for your memory?” The emperor remained silent for a moment and then said, ” They’d rather have doubled my sorrow, and therefore, I had no option but to burn them down.”

There is a lesson in it for us. Once you move on in life, you slough off all relations, connections and associations like the way a snake gets rid of its old skin. Old may be gold. But life’s not just centered around the past, it ought to move on!



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