I finished reading George Orwell's 1984 (yes, book number 2 this year!). I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with it, maybe because I expected it to be this amazing piece of literature that "changes" my "life" or something. I wanted it to affect me but it didn't, probably because I was already spoiled from reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World first.
Despite being disappointed, it was enjoyable to read, I suppose. One thing that I kept thinking about was the idea of memory, or more accurately, existing in memory. In the novel, if you were guilty of thoughtcrime or doublethink, you were "vaporized" – completely erased from writing to the memories of others: you became an unperson.
It made me think about all the famous dead people, like Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare – how is it that we remember them, and yet I don't know who my maternal great grand parents are? Is it because the famous dead people have been retained in memory and that memory has transferred onto script? I feel like, in my mind, I don't have maternal great grandparents. I've never met them, my mum's never talked about them. What proof is there that they existed?
Moreover, what proof do we have that Shakespeare and Einstein every existed? 1984 highlighted that the past can be created to dictate and supplement the present and the future. How can we swallow that Shakespeare really wrote Romeo and Juliet? How do we know Einstein came up with E=MC squared? How do we even know E=MC squared?
I feel like I'm not making the point I'm trying to make here.
If we were told from a young age that 2+2=5, and that we learned maths thinking that to be the truth, then doesn't that completely change our understanding of maths? Like, what would that mean for multiplication, and time? If it affects time, will that change how we tell the time, predict the weather, even the number of days that make up a week? If we've been learning the wrong things, would we even fathom that 2+2 didn't equal 5, would we recognise that they are wrong?
Ergh. That was a tangent. I did not intend to talk about that. What I was going to say was, I know that most of us here are going to be forgotten and once we are forgotten, it would be like we never existed. If there's no proof of us, or memories of us and our existence, does it mean that it doesn't matter that we were alive to begin with– we're just going to an unperson. I suppose that's only applicable if you want to be remembered.
I remember reading the paper one morning about this sweet young girl, probably under 7, and she had just passed away from some kind of horrible cancer, and her biggest fear was that she would be forgotten. My head went into a frenzy, picturing how her parents were going to make sure that she was never forgotten: they create a memorial dedicated to her brave battle against this sick cancer, they start a charity in her name to raise money to find a cure for the cancer, they tell their other children about her, they tell their grand children about her.
But part of me wonders what will happen when her parents stop campaigning for her memory to remain in out hearts? Is she forgotten? Did she ever exist in the first place?
It's all really scary.