Bad Memory Has Its Benefits

I would love if my memory was better. Instead of vague recollections, the kind where you have to question whether or not something actually happened, I could recollect more clearly, remember the exact detail of some past moment, in a way, relive my past. If my memory was better I could recall the exact feelings, thoughts, and emotions which I’ve felt and that would make writing about such things so simple. Better yet, I would love to recall anything I read one time. All that information which seems to flow in and then out, only the smallest traces of it sticking with me, almost as if I hadn’t even attempted to learn it.

No more losing my keys or forgetting directions or spending the day trying to recall that one song I heard on the radio that one time.

Clearly, the benefits of good memory are immense. You may think who would ever want a bad memory? Or be happy that their memory is bad? 

The answer to that is Michel De Montaigne. Montaigne was a French philosopher who is best known for his collection of thoughts which he mixed with real-life anecdotes, which are promptly called Essays. It is the way Montaigne thinks which has attracted people to him for centuries after his passing and is one of the reasons I’ve read his work. An example of this unique perspective can be seen in the essay titled “On Liars” in which he lists a few benefits of having a bad memory.

One benefit is that you have to use your own reasoning ability, your own logic, instead of relying on the works of others because you are unable to recollect the arguments of others in a cohesive manner.

If, thanks to memory, other people’s discoveries and opinions had been kept ever before me, I would readily have reached a settled mind and judgment by following other men’s footsteps, failing as most people do to exercise my own power.

Another benefit that you may not have realized of bad memory, for I certainly did not, is that one talks less when their memory is poor.

I talk less; it is always easier to draw on the storehouse of memory than to find something original to say.

Furthermore, bad memory means to relive experiences and moments.

Books and places which I look at again always welcome me with a fresh smile.

Lastly, your mind is at ease when your memory is poor for you cannot recall information that would bring you discomfort.

I remember less any insults received. I would need an Official Reminder like Darius: in order not to forget an insult suffered at the hands of the Athenians he made a page intone three times in his ear as he sat at table: ‘Remember the Athenians, sire.’

If nothing more, this is a good exercise to practice. Whatever you deem to be bad, think of two or three things that demonstrate how that bad thing has benefits of its own. What I take away from this essay is simple: be mindful of your perspective. There are very few things in life which are black or white, good or bad, most things fall somewhere in the middle, the gray area, where one’s perspective matters more than anything else.

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