Chapter 58

I’ve been thinking about equilibrium today: the balance between intermingled things, a balance in both time and forces. A friendship in equilibrium, for example, is a connection in which there is no material disagreement about the past, present or future of the relationship, and in which neither party is trying to get an outcome that is not currently being gotten (and neither party is seeking for things to unfold differently than they are, or wishing that they had unfolded differently in the past). When one is in equilibrium with oneself, one is comfortable with the state of things, the history of things, and that which seems to be upcoming, and not trying to will oneself to be a way other than the way one is. Equilibrium is not exactly a state of happiness or satisfaction, because these things can be different before, after, and now in a way that still rests in equilibrium. The foundations of equilibrium lie in expectations and memory. Even the present is experienced through remembering and expectations are memories. When memories (including those of expectations) are in alignment across the timeline, one is in equilibrium. The challenge with memory is that one cannot erase it. It’s permanent, to have had an expectation. It may not be an overriding priority, but it will always be an expectation that lives in memory, even if the expectation is realized or shown to be an absurd thing to expect.

So how does one enter into equilibrium? In large part, the project is one of remembering. “To forget” is a false action; something can pass further away from active memory, but no memory can be extinguished. Memory must be excavated, examined, put into new lights. This will create new memories, but it will also introduce memories that hadn’t been completely acquainted to each other, even though they had been living among each other. As memories of the past, present, and future get to know each other, they will have to accept each other: none of them can ever go away, so they must learn to live together. At first, there may be conflict. Memories that seem to negate each other or be at odds. An expectation of goodness with the memory of having done something awful. A belief in one’s perfectibility with the expectation of mistakes. And it’s best to be very, very specific. It’s why memoir shouldn’t just be a retirement project to fund a few years of yachting for the already-well-known. Memory-examination across all time-scales is an urgent project for everyone. It can also be done within groups to identify incoherence and disequilibria among many people; many times, histories, the experience of the present, and expectations for the future sit so at odds within an individual brain or a group of people as to make it miraculous that conflict isn’t mortal and continuous (though it can be both mortal and continuous).

The idea that memory is exclusively a realm of the past is nonsense. And the idea that one’s mind can be “changed”, as in edited, is even more absurd. All one can do is add memories that might make the memory milieu less toxic and more flourishing. It’s a bit like a lake that has become disgusting with algae and muck and stink: the move is not to try to remove the lake’s grosser elements (as in a lobotomy), but to add more growth until the living things feeding on the algae and muck look more like a marsh. Marshes are often in equilibria (at least more often than a stinky summer lake), as they have added enough life to feed themselves in a healthy cycle.

To examine one’s beliefs, expectations, past, and mindsets as a matter of memory, accepting that none can be modified: this is the path of one approaching alignment. The same can be said in a relationship or group, and the more open this project is, the more everyone remembers everyone else.