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Memories and experience

Walking in the woods today I turned my thoughts to my early childhood. The fields and woods were growing dark under a gibbous moon and there was plenty of time to let memories surface. I thought of the houses in which I lived, of moments with parents, of childhood friends. It was actually surprising how few memories came, especially before the age of five. I think if I were to write headlines for each of these memories, they would not fill very much space.

Then I let my thoughts flow to memories of adolescence and adulthood. There too the record is murky - a convoluted worm's-path in sand. I felt sad not on account of memories, but for the fact that so much of life passes unconsciously, unprocessed, without due reflection, as if on automatic pilot. And the consequence is that memory is dim. Even the broad outlines, such as the rationale for directions taken, lose their clarity.

Just as my feet knew to complete the long circle of my evening walk in the semi-darkness, while my mind was reeling back through other times and places, my life experience has brought me safely along to the present juncture. It isn't a question of following a path and reaching a destination – it's a question of the manner in which we travel the path.