The Aggregate of All Our Experiences


ho are you? Who am I? Xanga is such a a strange place where we know and yet don’t know the people with whom we communicate–with, of course, the exception of those we know personally. I don’t want to reveal the specifics of who I am, but I do want to convey what I am, so that you may get a better feel for what I write. On the front/main page of the O-man’s Xanga, on the right hand column, is random information that reveals a little bit about myself.

There are lists and short blurbs about me or that perhaps reflect how I view myself. Ddsb2000 recently commented that he just noticed some links and asked if Yeung Ling was my favorite beer. Well, my favorite beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but that is not readily available on the East Coast at a price that I would consider reasonable. But Yeung Ling is a nice substitute, and so I make due with a product from what is apparently the oldest brewery in the US.

Also, on the front page is a short comment on my basic philosophy, of how I view myself and the world around me:

We are the sum total of all our individual experiences. As a result, everything we think, interpret and say is tainted. While we may try to offer objective “facts”, these facts are inevitably arranged and presented through the prism of our own experiences, and as such it is our own subjective perspective of the truth.

Yes, I have probably mentioned this about a bazillion times. But I consistently read on other Xanga sites the attitude that things do not change. Recently, someone wrote about how the bad characteristics of people stay the same: “They just don’t change.” Elsewhere, another commented on how he felt the same but finds “everyone at home different” upon his return from study abroad. Because of these comments, I feel that this philosophy is worth repeating. We all change. Everytime we experience something, anything, we are changed. The influence may be big or small and the change may be big or small. Certainly, the longer we live, each new experience represents a progressively smaller percentage of the entirety of our experiences, and so changes may be slight and at times imperceptible. But the change occurs nonetheless, and who we are at any given time is a reflection or reaction or product of all these experiences up until that moment.

Now, what made me think about this was the movie 50 First Dates, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. In what turned out to be a pleasantly fun movie, a young woman, Lucy Whitmore–who suffered a head injury in an auto accident damaging the part of her brain that stores short-term memory–has lost her ability to create new memories. Everyday she wakes up thinking it’s her father’s birthday in October. Sandler’s character, Henry Roth falls in love with this woman, accepting the stress of having to reassure her every morning for the rest of their lives that he loves her and that she loves him. The result is bittersweet. While the attempts to make Lucy’s life comfortable by Henry and the others are sweet, Lucy’s life still manifests a sense of melancholy. This fictional woman is a victim of circumstance, one who will never change. Her memories, and hence the experiences that created her personality, are frozen in time, and she will remain the exact same person for the rest of her life. Isn’t that sad? And this is what made the movie interesting to me. It evoked a complex mix of emotions: joy with the outrageously funny scenes with Rob Schnieder, Sean Astin and the other supporting actors, a sweet sentimentality in the affection that everyone has for Lucy, and a palpable melancholy when trying to understand the life that Lucy must live. ***1/2

Which brings us to another Japanese word:

あわれ aware (ah-wah-reh). a word that is often used in literary terms, but is expressed in conversation when confronted with a situation that evokes a strong emotional response. It is often related to sadness or sorrow, but I think this is might be too simple. There is also a sense of beauty, as well as an empathetic response. Pathos is a word we use too infrequently these days, but this might be the best equivalent for aware. But I must admit rather sheepishly that I am surprised that an Adam Sandler movie–think TheWaterboy, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds–would conjure up the word aware.

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