Do You See What I See?

MEMORYWe are our choices.Jean-Paul Sartre

Everyone who writes, whether it be a blog, a book - fictional or biographical - a newspaper column, you name it - fictionalises, factionalises, removes, remotes, rationalises. It's all a part of the creative process, the privacy process and yes, a part of maintaining sanity.

I was thinking of this tonight whilst myself, The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant and my dear, dear friend Miss A were sitting around the dinner table, collectively sipping on a rather yum bottle of vino.

How many of our memories are a form of fictionalised - let's say, what we believe to be the truth?

Think about the best stories of your life. Think about retelling them five, ten, twenty years later. Every time you tell them, you are guaranteed a huge collective laugh, or a gasp of horror, or a nod of agreement with an 'oh my God, that's JUST what happened to me! How hilarious!'

Then imagine this. You agree to participate in a sociological study. You are led into a room, and told only that you will be blindfolded and sitting with four other people.

You will not be introduced to each other, nor will you speak prior to the commencement of the study.

What will the study consist of?

You will retell the biggest experience of your life.

As you tell, and as you listen, certain points in a few of the narratives sound... well, somewhat familiar, but none of it is exactly the same. You think 'wow, some of these guys had a really similar experience to mine!' - but then again, from their stories, a couple of these people were on a different planet, and you wonder why the hell you were put in the same room. As far as you're concerned, you'd quite happily never be put on the same continent with them, let alone within the same four walls.

At the end of everyone's recitatives, a beeper goes off. A disembodied voice crackles through the room, thanking you, and asking you all to take your blindfolds off.

Blinking, you emerge slowly into the light.

And there are the other four people who were a part of the biggest thing that ever happened to you.

The story you have built your dinner party life on. The one that makes the people in your life now react to you as an individual, as a presence, as something a little bit - special.

What happens now?

Because let's face it; exactly the same thing has happened to them.

I haven't made this scenario up. It's called conversational remembering. It's something we do every time we retell a story; and in consequence, it's a conscious choice we make every time we 'tell' a story.

'I remember when I was bitten by a Great White Shark diving off the coast. I was absolutely petrified, but I managed to fight it off and swim to safety. It was a really rough day... yeah, I suppose I did save my mates. I'll never forget how it happened; it's burned into my brain.'

'I remember when my best mate was diving and there was a dead shark on the sea bed and he freaked out and he nearly swallowed his regulator.'

'I remember when my mate saw a shark while we were diving and he had to punch it on the snout.'

'I remember when my mate was diving and a shark bit his dive line'.

'I remember when a bunch of us were diving and something weird happened and we didn't talk much after that. It's a shame, because we were really good friends until then. I miss those guys.'

Do you remember?