Imagine if you had a perfect memory. Imagine if you could store in your mind every moment and every conversation you have ever had. You wouldn’t forget anything, you would never lose your keys and if there was a moment that you wanted to watch over and over again you could easily do that.
In Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: The Entire History of You, we are taken into a world where memories are stored on a hard drive in your brain (by a device behind your ear) and you can project those memories on the TV screen for all to see like an episode of Eastenders. This gadget seems like a perfect device for CSI – you can look at people’s past events and see whether they are lying or not. Employers can see your past events to see if your life matches up with your words. Your entire history can be accessed in extreme detail. It seems bliss and this episode shows successful young people in beautiful houses exhorting this technology for laughter and pleasure. But there is a darker side.
The protagonist, Liam, starts to become paranoid about his wife. He has doubts about her faithfulness to him so he goes back over and over situations they are in. He rewinds and plays moments over and over again. The truth unfolds to show that she is unfaithful. He makes her play those moments of the affair. These memories are stuck in his head.
Play. Pause. Rewind. Play…Repeat
The most horrific moment on constant repeat. Sounds terrible. The only relief and salvation is to remove the device from the brain. The only way to forgive and move on is to erase the memories altogether.
This happens in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The main characters Joel and Clementine want to erase their memories of their relationship – it becomes too painful to carry on with those memories so the best way to deal with it is to get rid of those memories and start again.
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.” – Alexander Pope
It sounds like the perfect salvation. Imagine being hurt and having that constant memory stuck in your head, going around and around interrupting your sleep. The best way to deal with it is to get rid of the memory. Pretend it never happened.
“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Black Mirror challenges us on how we leave an entire history of ourselves on the internet, with our e-mails, bank accounts, facebook and photos. Everyone can see them, our history is displayed to see. Yet if something or someone upsets us, well lets just erase it, lets just delete that friend, lets just untag ourselves. Simple.
Except it really isn’t. We are creatures that often cling to the hurt and pain of memories instead of the good and truthful ones. Just reading the Old Testament shows how forgetful Gods people are to His goodness and salvation. In my own life its easy to remember the hurt and pain of a remark or a friendship breaking down – it runs deep and raw. It would better to just pretend they never existed. But in reality that won’t ever heal your heart.
There is something of forgiveness that brings a great balm to our souls and memories. If we could just erase memories, I wonder if it would truly remove the heartache, would it truly heal the ache or just bring about emptiness? Sin runs deeper than memories, it’s a sickness of the heart and the painful memories are often a reminder of the need of salvation. True salvation is not simply forgetting or erasing the memory or hurt, but true salvation is forgiveness and love piercing through those memories and hurts and healing the heart.
“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
― Lewis B. Smedes
Just look at how Jesus forgives. He knows all our sins, all our idolatry and hate towards him and yet while we were still enemies he dies for us. A forgiveness that runs deep into the heart and gives us hope for the future. It can only be satisfied on the cross.
What Liam needed in this episode was not his memories erased, but he needed the cross – the place of true forgiveness where memories of hurt and pain run loud and clear and yet in spite of that they are covered in blood bringing forth a healing forgiveness and love. If we simply forget those moments of painful memories then we will never learn forgiveness, we will only seek a numbing half lived life where we carve out all the best and good bits. It’s the struggles, the pain, the brokenness that brings us to the cross and teaches us about true love, healed hearts and restored relationships.