Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 8:00 pm
A recent study identified the gene responsible for memory extinction. This means that a day may come when you can go to the doctor or a psychiatrist and have your bad memories erased.
Scientists hope the findings could be used to treat those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder such as veterans and victims of abuse.
I’m ambivalent about gene science. I can see the benefits from a medical standpoint. But a lot of it feels a little too much like playing God.
It wouldn’t be the first time that something was discovered with the best of intentions that was ultimately used for something sinister. Like nuclear physics.
I think it would be hard for the human race not to capitalize on memory extinction science beyond treatment of disease and serious emotional distress.
There is something very attractive about the idea that you’d never have to think about your bad memories again.
I’ve been intrigued by the notion of erasing memories ever since I watched the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
After I saw the movie, I made a list of all the memories I’d erase. It was made up mostly of times I embarrassed myself or inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.
Like the time I complimented someone’s hair, which was fine except I then followed it up with, “Not that there is anything wrong with your hair normally, I mean, your hair is fine, it’s just that…wow! Today it looks so good! Not that it doesn’t look good normally, but…”
Or the time as a young social worker that I made a totally inappropriate joke about Lolita during a very serious staff training about treating sex offenders.
Fifteen years later, that one still makes me cringe.
It would be nice not to carry the burden of my own ridiculousness around with me for the rest of my life.
Then again, I learned valuable life lessons from these types of experiences. If the memory was erased, would the lesson go with it?
I’d hate to think that I’d keep humiliating myself and offending people in the same ways over and over again in perpetuity because I couldn’t remember what I’d already learned.
Not that I don’t continue to put my foot in my mouth on a regular basis. Thus far I keep finding new and improved means of self-mortification.
But I still hold out hope that eventually I will exhaust all the ways a person can embarrass oneself.
I’ve decided that I would not actually like to erase my memories. As hard as it is to live with myself sometimes, I wouldn’t want to risk losing the good with the bad.
What if they messed up and erased the memories of the first kiss I shared with my husband?
Or the sound of my sons’ laughter as they play together in the sandbox?
Or the smell of my grandmother’s afghan as I sat on her lap listening to her read me a bedtime story?
Life isn’t meant to be clean and tidy, and neither are memories.
Sara Wald lives and writes in Lewistown.
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