Monday 14 June 2010

Interesting neuroscientist’s fiction

I was listening to an interesting discussion by a bunch of neuroscientists as they talked through some fictional stories about afterlives and how consideration of the idea of an afterlife causes us to see some interesting perspectives on real life. One brought up a film called ‘Afterlife’ where people were asked to think back on their life to a favourite moment or memory, which they would then be allowed to take with them to the afterlife and could live in their favourite moment forever more.
All very far fetched, right… But the interesting thing was that the memories that people in the story picked were often the most seemingly banal moments - sitting doing nothing in a particular place, simply being with someone special in a totally ordinary setting etc..
It was funny for me listening, while on a long walk out from a session on a hard project and in the process of psyching myself up to try and finish it. The most memorable days trying hard projects in the past have not generally been the day I did them, or even days of good progress. To pick one of my hard climbs as an example, my best memory from doing Rhapsody was late night runs around Dumbarton, simply enjoying the feeling of having done several hours of training that day and winding down with a run. 
This is not to say that having the projects to work towards is therefore not important - quite the opposite. They are essential as the catalyst for the experiences gathered along the way. Without them, life would be emptier.  The flip side of this is that being dependent on success on them closes off the link to those experiences along the way - the ones that will really be memorable long after the project is just a number in your logbook.


  1. Reminds me of a quote I like:
    "Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these." -Susan B. Anthony

  2. great point! My favorite memory of my hardest project is the first, failed attempt I made that day, the fact I fell a move from the finishing jug, and that I summoned the guts after lowering to get back on and go for it again.

  3. Greets Dave, quick note on that film, Afterlife. Nice to come across a comment on it here! I've seen it a bunch of times and use it as a case study in a seminar I teach to architecture students; and lecture on it. I love that film. The stories each person tells their 'adviser' were in some cases developed from real life stories; and KoreEda, the director, even used some 'non actors' and their stories.

    Also, there is a really stunningly beautiful structural move in the film, a young man who's been a 'case worker' for decades in this purgatory, meets someone who knew a person in life that he also used to know... it is handled with incredible skill. Can't say more as it would be a spoiler, but I highly recommend the film. It is slow, subtle and very moving; a film about making movies and a film about what we can decide is worth remembering.

    Cheers all!