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We are taught that to remember things is important. In some cases where people reach exalted states of remembering they are revered for the ‘knowledge’ (that’s weird assumption and a whole other debate).

Traditions, cultures, loyalties and rewards are built on remembering, but then so are feuds, vendettas, come-uppance and hatred. All things considered, I think that remembering is vastly over-rated, and our slavish and uncritical, if unspoken, acceptance of the idea “to remember is good” has a pernicious downside which implies “and forgetting is bad”.

But is it? I don’t think so. The idea that associates forgetting with some sort of failure of the faculties or worse, a character flaw that writes off the offender, is in itself an offence. It is drummed into us by both teaching and by implication, and nobody seems to challenge the wisdom of a nostrum that is patently absurd.

It’s time to rehabilitate forgetting. Even if we choose to ignore the damage done by remembering things that are best forgotten, we can’t deny that we have all had moments in our lives when we desperately wished we could forget something. Even if we unquestioningly buy into the popular wisdom, we cannot deny that there would be value in training ourselves in the art of forgetting.

 

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