Memory goes zzz

Published August 20, 2021, 3:11 PM

by AA Patawaran

What a challenge to be young at this time! There’s the pandemic, there’s climate change, but short attention spans, gadget-ruined eyes, lazy memory cells, the age of obsolescence, and snowflakes as well

AGE OF OBSOLESCENCE Unlike this TV from the 1950s, nothing lasts anymore, not your latest version of an iPhone or your current pop idol, not your interests and obsessions, not your youth

It’s a little scary, it’s a little hopeful, but life has always been this way. Or has it, really?

The signpost says: “Gone digital,” and, through that portal, we’ve gone to an entire ever-unfolding universe. No borders, no limits in time or space, no walls, no ceilings, no floors, no gravity, it stretches from here to eternity. Who knows how far it goes, where it ends? 

Meanwhile, life’s a-changing, but it hasn’t changed this much and this fast and it’s changing faster and faster by the minute. This new gadget in your hand will be old before you know it and all that will be new after it will be old even sooner. How come my childhood TV—the bulky one that had its own cabinet, the one so bulky it occupied the entire room—lasted me a lifetime, if I had to hit it three times for the screen to clear up, if I had to use a pair of pliers to change the channel? Ah, those were the days when things weren’t designed for obsolescence! Things were built to last, and so were our memories.

Memory. That, I’m afraid, is a casualty in this age of the iCloud, Google contacts, and the memory card. I used to know the telephone numbers by heart. I’d walk onto the campus, scan the parked cars in the parking lot, and by the plate numbers that I had memorized, I knew which of my friends were there. Now if your smartphone battery dies, and there are other smartphones everywhere you could use, who are you going to call? All your memory is in the dead phone. Someday, we might even forget 9-1-1, not that it’s a universal number for emergencies, but three digits, what a chore to remember! My speed dial has long taken the weight of memory off my back.

Your memory, already bursting at the seams with too much, too soon and without the virtues of patience, focus, and attention to details, has nothing to latch on, weakened further by your propensity to just look ahead, always looking forward, never looking back, like a horse on blinders.

The upgrade, that’s another thing. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Unless you can make it bigger, smaller, quicker, better, and, most important, fetch more money for you. Evolution has always been about making things better, right? And business has caught up. The upgrade is the new model of commerce and it has been so aggressive, invasive, insidious it has found its way to our friendships, our marriages, our careers, but what career? We can’t be “just” a writer or a lawyer or a banker or a stylist or a photographer or an editor or an entrepreneur because multi-hyphenating, that’s what we do now. We want it all. We can be everything! So when do you upgrade your marriage? How do you upgrade your friends? The secret is in the upgrade. Nobody wants to be the same.

Change is constant, but nothing is constant, not even change, which is changing all the time. I pity the young, whose only ace is their youth because youth is so temporary. Before you know it there will be crescent moons under your eyes. Before you know it you will have gray hair sprouting on your scalp. Before you know it you will be old. And it will be too late to look back because all you will see is all that’s expired and forgotten, no long-lasting memories, because your icons don’t last long, your idols are forgettable (because you always ditch them for someone new), your influencers have nothing other than a million followers, some of them robots or fake accounts, on social media, and your memory is just like your iPhone battery, short-term, always running out of juice, going, going gone in no time.

MEMORY, BATTERIES NEEDED Nothing in the history of the world has been as invasive as the mobile phone, the do-it-all gizmo, in which everything—information, inspirations, memories, friends and family—is reduced to pixels and gigabytes

Your memory, already bursting at the seams with too much, too soon and without the virtues of patience, focus, and attention to details, has nothing to latch on, weakened further by your propensity to just look ahead, always looking forward, never looking back, like a horse on blinders. Your only 360 view is on Facebook.

How blessed was I that I had the experience of the centuries to guide me through the quagmire that was my youth, that I had my elders hold my hand because I let them teach me how to skip the traps, the detours, the deadends. I adored the ages! And not just in literature, but also in eyes that have seen much, also in skin weathered by so many adventures in the sun and under the moon, also in hands that have held much, touched all the textures and tones of life on earth, and not only the cold and lifeless touch screen of an iPad.

Ah these kids who scoff at the old, do you know what you’re missing? History. Wisdom. Magic. Adventure. The glories of a life unaided by ease and convenience, when food was cooked by fire, not by magnetic induction; when love was handwritten in ink on paper, not on electronic mail or short messaging system; where luggage was carried by hand or by pony, not rolled across the floor; when dreams were made looking up at the stars or out on the horizon, not down on your mobile phone.

What you see when you look back is what has survived time. What you see when you’re too focused on the present is the clutter of all that is happening and vying for attention. What you see when you look forward is only possibilities. Not one of these viewpoints is better than the other. View 360 is always the best, though it didn’t even catch fire on Facebook. Be mindful of your time—in it must lie the past, the present, and the future all at the same time.

A LIFE SO EXTRA What a challenge it is to be young at a time of too much information, too many options, too many tasks you can do all at once, too many dreams to pursue in too many directions. The other side of youth empowerment is overfatigue and many lost opportunities for the mastery of a single subject

Has life really been reduced to pixels and gigabytes in your smartphone or all the many things going on on your social media feeds? In some places like Honolulu, it is now a crime to text and walk. It’s a crime to even look down on your phone while crossing the street. Now can you arrange a street rendezvous with your Tinder date? That might be a crime, too, if he or she were to send you on a wild goose chase, as Waze would, through the crowded street—“Turn left at the corner, ascend the footbridge, look to your right. There, do you see me? Have you found me? I don’t look like my picture, but I’m wearing red.” With hope, when you do find your way, the journey would last you a lifetime, and I hope your memories of that journey do not self-destruct in 24 hours, as in IG Stories or Snapchat.