“The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” ~ William Faulkner
I’ve been gifted with an unusually good memory. It makes up for having somewhat average intelligence. I’ve given plenty of IQ tests and so I know mine is about 120. Now, that’s a little above average but nothing special. Many of you reading this have higher.
My good memory has been an asset in my work as a therapist. I used to have almost total recall of what was discussed in previous sessions and so I didn’t have to write great case notes. My recall isn’t as good as it used to be but its still better than average. It isn’t as good because of proactive inhibition. That’s an experimental psych term which says that previous learning interferes with current learning. I know a lot about proactive inhibition because my master’s thesis in experimental psych dealt with it. Anyway, the older we get the more previous learning we have. Pretty soon all my sessions kind of meld into one protracted scream.
Last week Oct 10, was my grand-daughter’s 5th birthday. It occurred to me it was also the 30th anniversary of the last nite that my first and only wife spent together. I mentioned this ironic coincidence to a couple friends and they both more or less said, “I’m glad I don’t remember things like that.”
I have a particularly good memory for dates–and to some degree phone numbers. Names, not so much. If I don’t actively try to remember the name of someone new thru some association it’s gone in a nanosecond. My indifference to getting to know new people is probably not very Christian–but it’s likely a result of having to get to know something like 7,000 clients in my 40-yr career. My recall for numbers, dates, birthdays, and my casual interest in numerology is probably some form of OCD, along with a few counting rituals that I have. My OCD tendency has also given me a somewhat synergistic intelligence. I’m not the smartest guy in the room but in my obsessiveness I’ll take a little from here, and then a little from there, and gnaw on it like a hungry hound–and voila something happens. Anyway, for whatever reason being able to structure my life via a framework of dates and associated memories has always been very meaningful to me.
My preoccupation with memory, and the past, causes me to worry that maybe I live too much in the past. Scenes will replay in my memory over and over. These are not bad memories, just weird, haunted memories. So far too often the past seems as alive to me as the present. One of my favorite novels Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut begins with the sentence: “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” Sometimes I worry about becoming unstuck in time. Like, I wouldn’t be me anymore.
Lately, I’ve been reading a couple books on quantum physics. I picked up a book with the odd title Spooky Action At a Distance by science writer George Musser. BTW, the book has nothing to do with Halloween. It’s about the phenomenon of nonlocality. Nonlocality is a concept so weird that it boggled even Einstein. It undermines everything physicists think they know about the universe from both classical and quantum physics perspectives. Essentially, nonlocality has to do with a particle being about to exist in two widely separated positions at once—theoretically light years apart. I won’t go into the details because I’m at a loss to coherently explain them but nonlocality can be demonstrated in lab experiments.
The Physics of Christianity is a book by Frank Tipler that I’ve been reading and rereading for well over a year. I have to keep rereading chapters because the concepts, particularly the math, is far beyond my ken. Tipler also knows an impressive amount about biology and genetics.
Tipler, along with many other cosmologists, believes we exist in a multiverse. In other words, in a universe of many millions (almost infinite) other universes that are both very similar, and very different from our own. In effect, there are many, many other Carls writing these almost exact words and being read by people almost you—perhaps so similar to you and I that we slip back and forth between these universes completely unaware.
Tipler makes the case that the “miracles’ of the Bible make perfect sense, and are not really miraculous, but rather phenomenon that literally had to happen because of the nature of the multiverse. Tipler has impeccable credentials as a mathematician, physicist and cosmologist. He teaches at Tulane University. But obviously being a serious Christian does not make him very popular with most of his secular scientist peers.
Anyway, the biggest take-aways for me from these two books is that space really isn’t empty—that the apparent space between stars and atoms is really full of something (we know not what) and that the universe is a very strange and spooky place–and far less explicable than we’d ever thought. Also, that in a sense everything exists at once. In other words, time is an illusion and thus the “past” per Faulkner’s quote and my own preoccupation, is never really past.
Ah, but Christianity is a present-future faith, not a present-past preoccupation. And there’s the rub for me. I understand that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. But we Jesus-followers are offered freedom (Luke 4:18). Some of that freedom we’re offered is, I suspect, freedom from our pasts.