There is a story in the Times this morning about how scientists have figured out how to turn off the memory function in mice. Well, I exaggerate, a little. It involves inserting fiber optic wires into the brain and injecting a virus containing a protein. Thanks to this the scientists can switch neurons on and off and the mice forget all those bad mice memories that keep them from sleeping at night. This makes them happier mice.
And since we now know that there is only the slimmest difference between how mice work and how human beings work, in the not-too-distant future we too should be able to decide what and how much we want to remember. No Joyce, no Proust, no Kafka.
I link this in my mind to another study I read this week, about how people tend to remember bad things much longer than good things. This fits my personal experience to a T, and I've often wondered why I was so perverse. We shouldn't take such experiences personally, I see--I often see, way after the fact--because they are hard-wired. One thing I have learned is that if you resolutely DON'T think about your setbacks, your failures, your humiliations, your tactlessness, you can ensure that these memories don't come back to plague you at 3 a.m. Wish I'd known this sooner--or maybe not.
Would you rather be Socrates or a satisfied pig goes the old question in Philosophy for Beginners. I once thought the question was rhetorical. I'm no longer sure.