Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Theatre of the Mind

Memory Theater is a slim look into the philosophy of the memory. Written as fiction by renowned philosopher Simon Critchley, the story unfolds as he discovers several boxes, each assigned an astrological sign, from a friend of his. This friend was a great French philosopher who, although lived a fine life, succumbed to madness in the end during a terrible summer heat wave. As a result, the boxes appear in the narrator's office, and so he goes through them to discover that his friend was involved with more than he had initially thought. He discovers the Memory Theater, a tool used to remember one's memories as well as store them for later use. The narrator also discovers documents and other things with regards to conversations held, meetings planned, and the like. Finally, in the last box marked Pisces, the narrator discovers several charts of different lives as mapped out by his deceased friend, including one for the narrator. Each chart lists the accomplishments of that person and even the death (with date, time, and cause), sending the narrator into a sort of calm panic. As the narrator begins to prepare for his death, he undergoes psychosomatic episodes of pain in his body, hallucinations, and voices that only he can hear, all wrapped within a calm readiness to end his life. As the narrator sits in a chair on the date of his death, only to continue living well beyond the time allegedly planned, he realizes that he must live again. The death of one way of thinking to make room for the "next life". And so, he does.

I know I have told the entire plot of this book, yet I highly encourage everyone to read it. It's a slim read (will take up an afternoon unless if you take tea breaks) yet it is brain food. What is memory? Why are some better at keeping it than others? When we die, where do the memories go, if anywhere? Are we the total sum of our memories? And if so, can we therefore change our lives by changing those memories? Every now and then, I love reading philosophy. I love to "wake up" my brain with questions that may or may not have answers. This book did that for me in a simplistic way with much depth. Critchley is quite talented in both the fiction and philosophy realms. Even the black humour sprinkled through the book gave me quite a chuckle as I imagined hearing him speak the words with a British accent.

As they say in the movie Yellow Submarine (one of my favourite movies) - It's All in the Mind.


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