Thankfully, Memories Fade
Published on August 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my column this week at the DG, I write about why sometimes it's good to forget ... at least a little.

Here's an excerpt:

"The one event I’ve been surprisingly successful at moving past is my sister Rebecca’s near-fatal accident, coma, brain injury and surgery. I think about it quite often, of course, but I manage to do this without dwelling on the particulars — the uncertainty of her outcome, the visits to the intensive-care unit, the waiting by the telephone for updates from my parents. She lived and recovered, life returned to normal. Why remember the hard times? What good would that do?

In a recent piece in Harper’s magazine, David Rieff suggests that our capacity for remembering is limited.

His essay aims to put the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 into a larger historical context, but what he manages to convey most is the slow, steady passage of time and the inevitability of forgetting. 'The stark reality is that in the very long run nothing will be remembered,' he writes, quoting the biblical book of Ecclesiastes: 'There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.'

Most interesting and perhaps controversial of all, Reiff doesn’t see forgetting as a bad thing; instead, he sees it as an essential step to moving forward, and progress. 'Will it ever be possible for us to give up the memory of our wounds?' he asks. 'We had better hope so, for all our sakes.'"

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