We would all like to go back and change the past with its medley of false memories and disconnection. But the past is not as fixed as we imagine. The future is in flux and the present is the only certainty.

Photo of Cadaques to show false memories and disconnection.

Your head is a jigsaw – a minefield – of false memories and disconnection. As old memories grow distant, the person you see in that memory seems to have little or no connection to the person you are now.

This is not abnormal. It is healthy.

Memory is elastic. It stretches and adapts. We vividly recall what’s important for survival. If you walked on the thin ice of a lake and got soaked when you fell in, you remember that. You remember that fire burns and silent dogs bite.

Memories attached to emotions stay longer in the brain: first love, the sudden death of someone close. Winning a competition we expected to lose. Losing a competition we expected to win. The rest is mind dust our brain neurons sweep out while we sleep at night, deleting chunks of information that have become irrelevant, providing space for new memories that could be more important.

Einstein memories and disconnection

People with the ability to retain and remember everything are often blocked. They live in the past, shuffling all the stored details and data, and find it difficult to visualise themselves in the future. Albert Einstein said: ‘The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.’ 

As time passes, more useless pieces of data are deleted during sleep. When you try to remember certain events, fewer details remain in the memory and what does remain seems more ‘remote’ or belonging to someone else. The brain then has an insidious urge to reinvent elements that have been deleted and paste random images over the gaps, plagiarising from movies, novels, other people’s stories. This adds to the feeling of having false memories and disconnection.

As we go through life, our experiences, beliefs and values evolve, leading us to view past events through a different lens. This shift in perspective tends to create a sense of detachment, making recollections feel distant or unfamiliar. As a boy of three, when I approached my great-grandmother playing the piano, her hand would draw back from the keyboard to slap my cheek. I know this happened. I can visualise the scene and can see in my mind’s eye Granny being told off for being a bully. But that boy receiving a slap and the man who took the photograph of Cadaqués at twilight appear to have no connection whatsoever.    

It is clearly a cliché, but our goal should be to live in the present, avoid too much nostalgia and let the future unfold naturally like a flower coming into bloom.








Posted in Blog.


  1. I agree. We are made up of our memories, but we should never let them keep us from embracing the future and being open to new ideas.

  2. Thanks for this thought provoking post, Cliff.
    I’ve learnt to accept all aspects of my life wholeheartedly and stop labelling them. Instead, I’ve stood back and extracted meaning from them. I’m content and excited by what I’ve discovered. My brain flexes with the present and Life is a gift. I (and only I) decide on the path of my life. I don’t look for approval, nor opinion. I’m good enough and that’s all that matters, Cliff.

  3. Clifford has a thought. His thought. He puts the thought into words. That thought is a thought that has been passed on and now a thought among thoughts. But hang on, is it just a thought. What is a thought? What does a thought look like. Hold a thought. Hold a thought in your hand. It is round like an orb. Not quite water not quite air. Shimmering with possibility. Like sunlight on water, sparkling and dazzling, playful and alive. A thought can be enjoyed in the moment or the beginning of something that can go on and on for years to come. It can become a question. Where did that thought come from and where will it go. Like life itself, a thought can be here one minute and gone the next. In the eye of the beholder a thought is yours to do what you want. Turn it into something new and exciting. Be creative. Transform that thought. Like a seed the thought has sprung roots and begun to grow. It must be nurtured and watered. Like a potter at a wheel moulding clay into a long beautiful vase, a thought can be a slippery customer. How did Harry Potter come to pass – in a cafe in Edinburgh! Thought can be as random as the atoms flying around a room but highly specialised thought takes practice and skill. Hours and hours, page after page. Hold that thought. What do you want to do with it. Keep it there a moment, gaze at it, meditate on what it means to hold a thought. Is that thought kind and gentle, born out of love and beauty or is it filled with desire and need, a necessity that requires urgency and action, or hurt and pain that is a call to arms! Desperation and anger have turned the orb into a red burning ball too hot to handle. Calm yourself. If you hold the orb still and let it rest long enough you might be able to see into the future. That thought you hold in your hand can become you in a different time and place. Take that thought, hold it up and let it fly, fly into the sky, into space and see where it takes you. There you will find a universe that reflects all the thoughts that have ever been.

    Thanks Clifford, for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Use the past as a map to negotiate the path of the future; the major landmarks guide the way while the smaller details are like spices or condiments, there for you to savor and enjoy. Learning from the mistakes of others makes you a whole lot smarter than having to learn from your own. Use your memories to guide you, but don’t be afraid to take new directions. Remember history, because it does repeat itself. Be ready for what’s ahead on the road of life.

  5. The Road of Life – A Poem
    The road of life does not go in a straight line; it is also not a flat line.
    It has hills and valleys, there are turns and forks.
    Going up and down can be tricky; you do not want to pick up too much speed at the bottom, or not have enough momentum to make the top.
    The turns can be dangerous, and the forks do not always go in the
    direction we want to go.
    There are guides in the road, helping you see your way. There are also obstacles and fog obstructing your vision, making you go again
    to places you may not want to be.
    The easiest way most often leads you astray, but sometimes the easy road
    is the right one to take, if you know the short cut.
    The right decision gets you to that place you want to be. The wrong decision could lead you away and you may never, ever see your destination at all.
    There are forces, like magnetic fields, drawing you down different side streets, to places good and bad.
    Circles that go around, back to the same place, or dead ends where you
    have no choice but to turn back.
    Fuel in the form of karma is a driving force, helping propel you along your way.
    Contamination like water and dirt in your fuel can kill your engine,
    leaving you stuck somewhere you do not want to be.
    The lucky few get a free ride; sometimes that free ride has an unforeseen cost.
    The best thing is to only take that free ride if you really need it.
    It usually works out better for you if you pay your own way.
    There are tolls, tickets, parking fees, and breakdown costs. Debts on your ride and payments, high prices out of your control.
    You come along the way to help others, some come to help you.
    There are some you should pass by and leave there, and some you really should save.
    Some do not really need help and fool you, and some have just plain lost. their way.
    Often you cannot tell the difference. But their cost you absorb may forever haunt you. That cost may be there to stay.
    Finally I say, the good karma you create may not save you as you go on your way.
    Watch out for that crazy guy out of control. Who is out to ruin your day !
    Mudflap’s advice is:
    Keep your destination clear and your fuel clean !
    Over and Out !


  6. “I came upon a child of God
    He was walking along the road
    And I asked him, “Where are you going?”
    And this he told me
    I’m going on down to Yasgur’s Farm
    I’m gonna join in a rock and roll band
    I’m gonna camp out on the land
    I’m gonna try and get my soul free
    We are stardust
    We are golden
    And we’ve got to get ourselves
    Back to the garden.”

    Joni MItchell

  7. Thanks for that Cliff – my English teacher when I was eight gave me some excellent advice “Live with the past, not in it”. I find memories are like sea anchors – they are not rigid but they help us locate ourselves. We are in charge of them.

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