On memory and reality

My little brother sent me some short videos this week.
It went like this: he transferred VHS tapes to a DVD. Then he played the videos from the DVD on his computer, and filmed the monitor with his iPhone. Then he sent me the iPhone videos via a social media site, and I forwarded them to my family.
The quality of the videos was of course poor; not only were the original tapes nearly 30 years old, each step transferring, copying and refilming degraded them further.
And yet: they were still superior to my own memories of the events — a visit we paid to my family in the United States when our oldest daughter was one year old.
Alpha and I are now older than my parents are in the videos.
The house in which we sing Happy Birthday has since burned in an arson fire, and then been torn down to make way for a mall parking lot.
Some details were only slightly surprising: Beta is a serious baby in the video. I remember that she was a serious baby, but she was even more serious than I recall.
Some details contradicted our memories entirely: for 30 years, we have told Beta she never crawled, just went straight from rolling to walking. But in the video she crawls just fine. She was a fast crawler, chasing my parents’ wiener dog all over the living room.
To be honest, the videos freaked me out a little.
The speed at which time passes, for one thing. How people just die, two people from the video, for example, but time just keeps going.
But we know that. What really freaked me out was how the evidence contradicted our memories. I know I forget things. We all forget things. I know I have forgotten most of my life, when it comes down to it. But to see blurry, grainy but genuine evidence that even the little bit I remember is false, that’s freaky.
It’s one thing to read somewhere that memory is nothing but stories we tell ourselves, and that any particular memory is altered to a greater or lesser extent with each re-telling, but to actually see the proof like that makes you wonder what else you’re wrong about.
What grudges you’d be better off dropping.
What pain you could let go.

Bifurcation

I woke up, fed the cats, and (here is the innovation) went back to bed for another hour.
Here is one theory of multiple universes: every time you select one of two (or more) alternatives, new universes are created: one in which you did the other thing.
One in which I did not go back to bed, but instead moped around the kitchen for an hour, or went down into my room to write something in a journal.
Or this one: I was standing in front of the Vienna Observatory park making a movie of a tree. A young man nearby waited until I had finished and said, You’re a professor, right? Unfortunately not, I said sadly. (Although we just created an alternate universe in which I am, I did not add.)Undaunted, he asked me if this was the entrance to the Vienna Observatory. I said I believed it was. However it is locked although past opening time, he pointed out (creating an unlocked-gate alternate universe).
I sometimes go for walks in this park, I said, and this is not the first time the gate is locked past opening time. IIRC, there may be another gate up the hill at the other corner, I said.
The young man told me he was to attend an internship for school. Good luck, I said. He left and walked uphill. When I got there (I was dinking around with filters, uploading the film to Instagram) he was nowhere to be seen, and I assumed he had gone in the gate (which was open).
Or this one: in one universe you donate furniture to the Red Cross for refugees, in another you take the furniture apart and drive it to some refugees a friend knows and give it to them personally and you and the refugees and your friends who introduced you carry it up to their apartment (luckily the elevator is working in this universe because they live on the 5th floor) and there you sit amidst a pile of pieces of desk and wardrobe in their living room and realize that, in this universe, you did not think to label the pieces, trusting your memory.
A family of six people watch your every move. Plus two friends and their little boy. ‘No pressure, Mig,’ says one friend.
I took pictures, luckily, you say, unlocking your phone and scrolling through pictures until you find them. In another universe the pictures are really helpful.
You eventually get the desk assembled, or almost – when you are nearly done your wife calls you and informs you you forgot a piece at home. Luckily it is the last piece, so you assemble everything but that, and bring that by the following day.
Also luckily, the refugees are intelligent and observant, and watch you closely, handing you screws right when you need them, or pulling a drawer out so you can tighten a bolt right when you need the drawer pulled out, without you having to say anything.
Forking and forking, good old reality.

Weather is weird

Weather is weird.
This is no season. This is no proper season. Seventy degrees in November.
This is no season.
How are you, he tells the kid.
There should be fog covering that field, but there is only warm dry air.
How are you, how is a person supposed to answer that, he says.
Someone asked me that, he says, once, and it totally threw me because I paused to think about it instead of just say, fine.
The kid chuckles. Yeah.
I was all like, objectively or subjectively?
By whose standards?
What time frame are we looking at?

You walk to the store. A kid has a party, another kid says, your cat is so cute, the first kid says, that’s not my cat, and suddenly you’re walking to the store for extra catfood on your lunch break, plus something from the bakery in case a crow passes your way.

Of course it does.

Every day is the same. Get up, make coffee, read, clean something, feed cats, take shower, get dressed, go to work. Get lunch, or don’t get lunch. Read. Go home. Clean something, go to bed.

At a certain level of magnification, anyway. At a microscopic, sub-atomic level, I suppose things vary wildly. This electron will only ever be exactly here once.

This quark, now you see it, now you don’t.

Just say you’re fine.